We share with sadness the news of the death in Florida of Jean Graham (née Cooper), Newbold College former student and staff member. Jean was born in Louth, Lincolnshire and educated at Louth Grammar School. She graduated from Newbold College in 1949 with a Theology Diploma and began her lifelong ministry as a Bible Instructor in Leeds, Yorkshire, for two years.
In June 1951, she married her fellow Newboldian, Roy Graham – a ministerial intern. In the first seven years of their marriage, the young Grahams moved four times: from Wiltshire to South London, to Cornwall and finally to East Anglia, where both of their children were born – Ian in 1957 and Valmae the following year. The care, nurture and education of their children was always high on both the Grahams’ list of priorities.
Three weeks after Valmae’s birth, the family moved from Lowestoft to Nottingham and two years later back to Newbold for another six years. Roy’s students regularly heard his praise of Jean as what was seen as an ‘ideal’ minister’s wife in those days. She coped with the regular uprooting of the family in house moves. She worked hard at home and in the church community, always in the background and ready to lend a hand. She cooked and balanced the household budget while practising the art of hospitality at the hint of a need.
In 1967, another move took the family to Watford, where Roy was in great demand, first as leader of three church departments and then as leader of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church in the south of England. The family spent their second term at Newbold from 1971 to 1976 when Jean worked as a library assistant and Roy served five years as principal. In 1977, following Roy’s appointment to the SDA Seminary at Andrews University, the Grahams moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan, where Roy was appointed Provost in 1979. From 1979, through Roy’s cancer and death in 1984, until her retirement in 1995, Jean worked as a secretary in the Andrews University Department of Education.
On her retirement, Jean moved to Florida to live near her daughter and son-in-law, Valmae and Cecil Lowry. She treasured her two granddaughters, Rachel and Carolyn, in Florida, and Mark and Hilda, children of Ian and Sirrÿ, in Oxford, not to mention her great-grandchildren as they arrived.
Throughout the years, the ravages of cancer took their toll on Jean’s family. Seven years after Roy’s death, Jean’s daughter-in-law, Sirrÿ, passed in August 1991. Finally, in January this year, her 39-year-old granddaughter, Rachel Lowry Meharry, also died of cancer. In these impossibly difficult experiences and until dementia took her away from her real self, Jean was a rock of deep faith and down-to-earth common sense. Her many friends in the UK, the USA and worldwide can testify to her maternal warmth, merry laugh and readiness to shed a compassionate tear in solidarity during a difficult experience. The ripples created by her passing will extend a long way.
Jean is survived by her brother, Peter Cooper, her two children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren – Joshua and Lily, Eliana and Benjamin.