Robert Graham

Robert Alford Graham

Robert was born December 29, 1926 in Arma, Kansas, the second son of Louis Orville Graham and Clarice Helen Briggs. Arma was part of the coal mining boom going on in southeastern Kansas at the time and Louis was a coal miner at the time.

Kansas is the French spelling of the Kansa, Omaha, Osage, Kaw, and Sioux Indian word "Kanze," which means south wind. Kansas has also been known as: "Bleeding Kansas", "Squatter State", "Cyclone State", "Sunflower State", "America's Breadbasket", "Heart of America", and as the home of Dorothy and Toto from "The Wizard of Oz."

Robert's parents divorced before he was ten. However, since about the age of four, his mother, brothers and himself were living in the home of his grandparents, John and Ethel Briggs. His grandfather became his surrogate father.

Although Robert grew up during the Great Depression, life for the family was not that bad. At a young age Robert found an interest in engines and machinery and soon became an apprentice machinist with the Frisco Railroad.

Robert, with brother Harold

Robert & Ethelene - 1944

Robert was nearly fifteen when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and he was seventeen when he became an apprentice machinist in 1943. It was also 1943 when he met Ethelene Gates. They began dating and were married January 7, 1945.

Three months later, in April, Robert was drafted into the Army. He trained at Camp Fanin and Camp Maxie, both in Texas. The war in Europe ended in May, but the war in the pacific was still raging. However, by the time Robert was sent overseas, the war with Japan had ended and Robert was sent to Korea as part of the American occupation forces. He served as a driver for his commanding officer and was discharged in 1946. In the meantime, his son, Denis Ray, had been born May 5, 1946.

When Robert returned he resumed and soon completed his apprenticeship. The Frisco Railroad transferred him to Kansas City, Kansas, where he bought a home and moved his family in the summer of 1947. A second son, James Robert, was born July 31, 1949. Ethelene returned to Fort Scott to have him.

In 1952, Robert began working for Trans World Airlines as a machinist in their facility on the Missouri side of the river. Less than a year later, his son, Terry Wayne, was born on February 17, 1953.

Robert and Ethelene were have some problems and separated, with Ethelene seeing another man. In the summer of 1953, she took her sons and went to California with her boyfriend. Before the summer was over she became disenchanted with him and returned to Kansas City and soon she and Robert were reconciled.

After living with Ethelene's brother for a few months, Robert bought a new home in the Highland Crest area for the family, where they would remain until 1959. It was here that his daughter, Karen Ethelene, was born on August 25, 1955.

During the 1950s, Robert began taking courses in radio and television electronics, and began working on them as both a hobby and for extra money. As the decade came to an end, Robert moved his family once again. In late 1959 he bought a house in Kansas City, Missouri near where he worked for TWA. He and Ethelene were still having their troubles, however, and separated again in 1965. On December 17 of that year they became divorced.

Within a few months, on March 13, 1966, Robert married Mary Frances (Scoville) Mills, a divorced woman with three children. He built a home for his new family in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. In the 1970's his passion became motorcycle riding. He bought a motorcycle and made trips with it to Florida and Colorado.

After 25 years with TWA, Robert retired and moved to central Missouri, near Bennett Springs, and in later years divided his time between there and Texas, where he spent time along the Rio Grande River. A rift had grown between him and his biological children and they seldom saw each other from the 1980's onward.

Robert & Mary - circa 1990

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