Eulogy for Lila J. Graham
September 19, 2016
by Rev. John Partridge
Just a little more than a week ago, our friend Lila was doing fine. But then she woke up in the hospital and everything started to unravel. Every time we thought we had good news, more bad news seemed to follow. Losing Lila was a surprise and even a shock to most of us but in addition, the events of the last week have been a startling reminder of our own mortality. And so, as we gather together today let us not only mourn for what we have lost, but also find comfort in the knowledge that all of us who believe in him will one day be reunited in the loving arms of Jesus Christ.
Lila J. Graham was born on June 30th, 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio. After she graduated from high school, she got work as a secretary adjutant for the United States Army ordinance office. While at first this might have seemed to be a nice entry level job, it was also an appointment with her future. Because, while this was happing in Cleveland, a young man named Marion Ray Graham (who always went by Ray and never by Marion) was growing up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. After his high school graduation he studied Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and joined the ROTC which granted him a commission in the Army after graduation and assigned him to a duty station… at the Army ordinance office in Cleveland, Ohio. After Ray and Lila met, Ray was sent to Korea in the day following the Korean Conflict and while he was gone, they corresponded regularly. Lila’s daughters said that she had shown them stacks of letters they had exchanged while Ray was overseas.
After his return home, Ray and Lila were married on July 17, 1954. During college, Ray had an internship with Timken and so after his service in the Army, he got a job there. For three years the city girl and the country boy lived in Canton, but then they moved out of town to Perry Township where they stayed and raised their family for the rest of their lives.
Well, they did live in the same house for the rest of their lives, but using the word “stayed” might be a bit of an exaggeration. You see, although their house was their home base, every year they would do a fair amount of traveling and Lila travelled more than Ray did. Ray thought it was fine to travel to see family and so they alternated between Virginia and Cleveland at Christmas time, and every summer the family spent a week camping at Clay’s Park, and that was about it for Ray. Lila on the other hand, loved going on an adventure. She loved to travel and so, whenever she could, she would find a sister, or a friend, or someone, and go somewhere. She literally travelled the world and Ray was fine with that as long as he didn’t have to go along. But Lila did convince him to go overseas with her one time.
Lila also had other adventures closer to home. She went out and did things with her kids and her grandkids whenever she could. They went canoeing, visited haunted houses, and were regulars at Cedar Point’s annual Halloweekends. Every year they visited the Yankee Peddler festival, attended the Christmas Carol at the Players Guild, and every Christmas season everybody came to Lila’s house for “Cookie Day.” At Easter everyone colored eggs, and then followed the clues for her special treasure hunt where you might find Easter eggs, a few coins, and eventually an Easter basket. You were never sure what you were going to find but you knew there was going to be an adventure. There were big cookouts to attend every year too, one for fish, and another for ribs, as well as making a big deal for Mother’s Day. And even before they started going to Halloweekend, they always had an annual outing to Cedar Point. And, Lila being Lila (and we’ve already said that she loved adventure), she rode every ride in the park. At age 75 she was still riding the Millennium.
And at every event, and at every adventure, Lila had a disposable camera and documented everything. But it’s important to note that she didn’t just take pictures. She took those pictures and kept a notebook for each of her grandchildren and carefully documented everything.
Once Ray and Lila were settled in Perry Township, Lila found work at the elementary school as a playground monitor, and then later was invited to become the “study hall lady” at Perry High School. It was at Perry High School that Lila met Helen Bowman and the two of them have been friends ever since. At church Lila did a little of everything. She was the children’s choir director for 25 years, taught Sunday school classes of all ages, led Bible studies, cooked food, served on the scholarship committee, made the fun calendars for the UMW every February, organized the talent show for 15 years, and probably more things than most of us can remember. And while they were all here, all of Lila’s kids got married at Trinity Church too. Every Sunday, after church, the whole extended family went to Ray and Lila’s house for a big family Sunday brunch.
Lila was a big sports fan and she loved her Cleveland Browns. Every game she would call Jeff at halftime to talk about why they were so bad this year, or why they missed that play, or wonder when they were finally going to get a decent quarterback, or whatever. At one time or another, Lila babysat all of her grandkids two days each week and, as we have already determined, because she had the heart for adventure, there were lots of field trips. Whenever she could, Lila spoiled her grandchildren to do death. She was the kind of a person that could talk to anybody. She loved to sing, she had a big heart and did things for just about everyone, she did her crossword puzzles every day, and whenever Hannah came over she loved to draw pictures and watch Rugrats (which Hannah liked but wasn’t allowed to watch at home). Every week she went out to eat with her lunch buddies and every Saturday she went out with a group of ladies from Trinity Church.
Lila was always sending cards and letters to family and friends and wanted to make sure that everyone got mail and felt loved. She was a beautiful woman inside and out, and if you look at her pictures, it isn’t hard to see why Ray Graham was attracted to her. Lila was known by many of us to give the best hugs. Whenever she saw me she made sure that I got one, and made sure that I didn’t forget. Even during this past week, whenever I would visit her in the hospital, even when she was hooked up to a host of IV’s and had machines beeping around her, whenever she would see me Lila would throw her arms out as best she could to make sure that I gave her a hug. Lila loved colorful things and fun things. She has a couple ornamental, concrete deer in her front yard and at this point many of you are probably thinking that lots of people have those, but Lila’s are as different as she was. Lila’s deer are not just your ordinary brown deer; hers are white, and green, and blue and all sorts of fun things. And then there is her collection of animated, dancing, stuffed animals. You know the ones, you’ve all seen them, the fish, frogs, deer, teddy bears and whatnot that sing and dance when you press the button. Lila loved them all and, from what I’m told, owns just about all of them. In fact, she told her family that the rabbit that sings “Some bunny loves you” was supposed to sing at her funeral. I’m not sure if it made it here today or not. And of course, Lila wore hats. I’m told that Loretta Doll was the first one at Trinity to be known for wearing hats, but Lila did it too and she owned it. There are several of us who have seen Lila out in public and almost didn’t recognize her because she wasn’t wearing a hat.
There was always a dog in Lila’s house and lately that dog has been her friend Foxy. Foxy was always at Lila’s side except when she went to Virginia to visit Joe. It wasn’t that Foxy couldn’t ride in the car, or that Lila wasn’t willing to take her, but it’s just that the building where Joe lives doesn’t allow animals. And so, it came to pass that Lila’s friend Janet Miller became sort of a part owner of Foxy because Foxy would go to Janet’s house whenever Lila went to see Joe. Naturally, even though we can all be pretty sure that Foxy was regularly spoiled by Lila, she complained that Janet spoiled Foxy even worse than she did.
As Lila began to spend time with Joe, the florist started to visit her more often. It was nice, and it was different, because Ray had never had much use for flowers and never really bought them, but Joe like flowers and sent them often. I’m told that the family began to notice that there was quite collection of flower vases that were accumulating in the basement, but no one really knew just how often it happened until this past week. As people came to the house to express their condolences, the delivery driver from Pat’s Flowers stopped in too. You see, he had come to Lila’s house so often that he and Lila had not only become acquainted, they had become friends.
Each one of us will remember something different. We’ll remember hugs, and hats, some will remember field trips and adventures, little dogs, singing songs, her love of Jesus and her passion for his kingdom, we’ll remember adventures, and lunches, and talent shows and all sorts of things. But the two inescapable things that every one of us will always remember is that Lila always had fun wherever she went, and that she had the remarkable ability to make everyone around know that they were truly loved.
If any of us can be half the person Lila was, we will surely be a blessing to others, because Lila was definitely a blessing to each and every one of us.
Lila J. Graham
June 30, 1933 – September 15, 2016
Lila J. Graham, 83 of Perry Township, passed away Thursday, September 15, 2016. Lila was born on June 30, 1933 in Cleveland, the daughter of the late Nelson and Edna (Osterland) Gilbert.
She worked at Richville Elementary and Perry High School retiring in 1992 after 28 years of service. She was an active member at Trinity U.M.C. where she taught Sunday School and Bible Classes, directed the Children’s Choir, and participated in U.M.W. Lila loved traveling and spending time with her family and friends.
Along with her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, M. Ray Graham in 2007; sisters, Dorothy Ward and Edith Loescher; and brother, Clark Gilbert.
She is survived by her daughters Amanda (Jeff) Fletcher and Amy (Gary) Ciesielczyk; grandchildren, Hannah and Audrey Fletcher, and Benjamin, Victoria, and Kari Ciesielczyk; and her special friend Joe Williams.
A Celebration of Lila’s Life will be held on Monday, September 19, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity U.M.C. in Perry Heights. The family will receive friends at the Paquelet & Arnold-Lynch Funeral Home on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. and on Monday from 10-11 a.m. at the church. In lieu of flowers donations may be to Trinity U.M.C. in Lila’s name.
Lila carried this scripture in her wallet. It isn’t one of the more common ones that people often carry. It isn’t about love, or hope, but then, in a way it is. And having read it, it’s exactly the sort of thing that Lila would’ve liked so we want to share it with all of you too.
Romans 8:35-39 –
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is one of Lila’s favorite poems. It was on a plaque in her kitchen. And again, for anyone that knew her, I think it’s exactly Lila.
It’s wondrous what a hug can do!
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say “I love you so” or
“Gee, I hate to see you go.”
A hug delights and warms and charms,
It must be why God gave us arms!
REMEMBERING LILA – by Janet Miller
Lila and I became such very good friends from working together at Trinity. We soon realized we had a great many things in common…We were both born in the same year and in the same month and also had the same middle name. She always told me I was older than her tho as there was 28 days difference…Our history and life style seem to have run parallel in our growing up years. We both lost our husband and after that she joined our group of Trinity friends for Saturday nights out. It was good to have friends to enjoy a meal together.
When Lila found life lonely she got herself a little 4 legged friend called Foxy. Naturally as soon as I saw her I knew she was a special little girl. Lila was good enough to let me be a part of Foxy’s life as well as Lila’s. Then a short time later Lila and Joe became the BEST of friends. She often traveled to visit Joe in Va. so Fox would stay with me. She always told me this pup is really spoiled when she comes back from your house. So I always told her, Well, you get spoiled by Joe so I get to spoil Fox….Lila was a special Christian, always ready to tell you about God and ready to lead any Bible study groups or the Sunday School Class we recently started. She was not afraid to tell you how much God loves us all and to always remember, “God is in charge”. She was so right about that. God could see Lila was struggling to live alone and needed help. We will all miss our dear special friend but we know God’s love will be waiting for her in a special place. I will forever miss my special friend and soul mate, but I will have her little Fox to remind me of her and know she will be checking to be sure I don’t spoil her pup too much. May God bless you on your next journey Lila.