Donald Albert was born on Tuesday, February 8, 1949 in Walkerton to Jacob and Dorothy (Bester) Graf. He was the fifth child of nine; Joan (1943), Ken (1944), Ron (1946), Shirley (1947) Don, Pat (1950), Doreen (1953), Dianna (1954) and Sharon (1957). The Graf family lived and worked on a farm just outside of Chepstow and the children attended the Ernewein Schoolhouse (S.S. #4) in Chepstow. Childhood memories were told of when Don, Pat and Shirley would pretend they were on the TV show, Circle 8 Ranch, all playing different characters. Pat was Rossey Man, Don was Don Robinson and Shirley was Donna. They used sticks for guitars and two sticks for Pat’s fiddle, often singing “The Blue Canadian Rockies.” He attended high school in Walkerton but left school to begin working after grade 10. In his youth, Don enjoyed playing broomball and baseball whenever he had the opportunity. His pride and joy though through his teenage years was his Comet Convertible.
After leaving school Don began driving a gravel truck, eventually purchasing his own truck. It was during this time that he was introduced to a young woman by the name of Josie Lane, through mutual friends. The two married on August 16, 1974 and took up residence on the Southline, just outside of Hanover. In the years that followed he returned to the family's dead stock business, Graf Animal Foods full-time. His job was to de-bone the animal carcasses, so naturally he was referred to as a Boner! I am told there was a few stories that went along with that job title! :)
Don and Josie welcomed their son Trent in 1975 and daughter Becki in 1977. He played a big role in their youth, teaching them to play baseball and eventually to drive a car. Saturdays meant a trip to the dump, usually with one of the kids driving home. I am told there was the odd time where more came home from the dump than went, if you know what I mean! He always enjoyed singing Christmas carols with Becki, with “Away in a Manager” being one of their favourites. Trent and Don spent many weekends bonding while groundhog hunting. Many Sundays where spent feeding the ducks at the Saugeen Conservation Area, with the occasional trip to Sauble Beach thrown in, in the summer months. He was always his children’s biggest supporter, loving them for the individuals they became, and being there for them when they were in need.
Graf’s eventually sold their business to the Lorenz family in Durham and Don moved with it. Years later, they were bought out by Atwood Pet Foods and again Don moved with the business. Unfortunately, it was his health that forced his retirement in 2008.
Outside of work and raising his family, Don enjoyed to get up on his feet and dance, with “Can’t Stop Falling in Love” and “Crystal Chandelier” being favourites. He also was very fond of Willie Nelson’s tune “Seven Spanish Angels.” Snowmobiling was another favourite pastime, as well as a good game of cards with his mom and sisters. His games of preference were Black Jack, Poker and Euchre and I am told he was not afraid to gamble a bit either! When it came to TV he loved to watch the news, particularly after supper, and was a big follower and supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Politics was another favourite topic of Don’s, which usually led to a long, heated discussion. If you asked him about the ending of the world, he had a story from the Bible for every viewpoint. He would continue to debate until you had nothing further to disagree on… in other words, he won!
In 1988, the Graf family moved to the 6th of Brant. He and Josie separated in 1997, whereby he remained in the family home. The following year Don was introduced to Nancy Marion Hampel through a co-worker, and the two hit it off immediately. In 1999 Nancy moved in and their relationship continued to blossom. He loved and cared for Nancy’s daughters and their families like his own, loving to be surrounded by family, especially the young ones!
Don absolutely loved to mow the lawn. He spent countless hours on his beloved green lawnmower, often returning inside with an occasional head wound due to the numerous (or maybe too many) bird feeders on the property. I am even told he drove the lawnmower over to Becki’s just for a visit. Imagine! This fascination led to some “greenest grass” turf wars with the neighbours and Christmas light competitions (who turned the lights on first each evening). He always had outdoor pets throughout his life with “Sheba,” his Keshan-Collie mix, being a favourite.
Don had a few preferences when it came to food. Most mornings began with toast, smothered in Cheez Whiz and a glass of milk. It was never smart to leave the milk pitcher empty, as his quick temper might flare up, but more on that later. He also loved peanut M&M's, Pillsbury cookies and his Coke Zero. Many stories are told of Don “spoiling” the grandchildren with tootsie roll suckers, one of “Papa’s” treats or occasionally some cash. Don and Nancy often met up for dinner after work on Friday nights and if Don got his pick it would normally be chicken at KFC or McDonald’s for a Big Mac! Apparently he had a second favourite “Busch” drink. Even throughout his illness, he often harassed his family about getting him another Big Mac or Busch!
He was a real homebody who had a solid wardrobe, full of track pants and t-shirts. Although his taste in clothing was lax, he always needed to be clean shaven. It was only in recent weeks that Becki introduced him to an amazing new technology, the electric shaver. She will forever have fond memories of her father saying, “Bec shave me!”
We cannot talk about Don’s life without touching on his quick temper. Quick might be an understatement as I am told it could be on display rather quickly when driving in the car or even in the grocery store. I am told on more than one occasion he displayed “a bit” of road rage whereby an “F” bomb or a slight of the fingers might have been used! :) As we all know, these traits are often passed down to our children, and Trent and Becki are no exception. On one such occasion when impeded by a “poor” driver, Becki and Don cursed (with the same word) at the exact same time!
“Family” that was the one, most important thing in Don’s life. Depending on the day, it could reference to Nancy, his children or his grandchildren. Grandpa or Papa, was one of a kind, and created many special, unique relationships with all of his grandchildren. The time they spent with him was always memorable, whether it was his good advice, dinner time conversations, or talking about the changes in broomball. He often re-affirmed his love for his grandchildren and usually included the words, “I am so proud of you!” I am told a select few were even able to control the TV remote when with grandpa and he wasn’t afraid to pass out a few bucks for a job well done!
There is no doubt Don was a little rough around the edges, but if he let you in, he would never let you go! It is these memories that we can all hold onto in the days and weeks ahead as he continues to live on in all his friends and family!
Sadly, Don passed away after a series of severe strokes over the last couple of months. He died, surrounded by his loving family, on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 in his 71st year.
Beloved companion and best friend of Nancy Hampel. Loving father of Trent (Tammy) of Blyth and Becki (Mark) Frook of R.R. #1 Elmwood. Cherished grandfather of Riley, Brianna, Brady, Sarah, Kyle, Dillon and Bradley. Don will be fondly remembered by Nancy’s daughters, Tracey (Chris) Lantz of Crawford, Mary Buckley (Dan) of Hay River and Christine (Ben) Clock of Kingston. He will be missed by Nancy’s grandchildren Madison, Gavin, Bert, Delaney, James, Maxwell, Kaylee and Heidi. Loving brother of Joan (Larry) Fritz of Chepstow, Ken (Jackie) of Walkerton, Shirley (Paul) Willi of Thorndale, Doreen (John) Finlayson of Kitchener, Dianna (Andy) Cleland of London, Sharon Morrison of Brussels and brother-in-law of Betty Anne Graf of Sarnia. Don was predeceased by his brothers Ron and Pat and his parents Jacob and Dorothy (Bester) Graf.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Thursday from 2 - 4 and 7 - 9 p.m. A funeral service celebrating Don’s life will be held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Brant Township (#260 Sideroad 30 North) on Friday, January 10, 2020 at 11 a.m. Interment in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery, Brant.
Memorial donations to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church or Heart & Stroke Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.Send to friend