Phyllis Craig Graves, St. Johnsbury, Vt., died Sept. 14, 2013, age 96 years.
Born Jan. 23, 1917, on the Craig north part farm in Peacham, she was the youngest of five children of James Henry and Mabel Paquin Craig. She attended the Peacham Corner one room school, and graduated from Peacham Academy in 1934 as valedictorian and starting forward on the basketball team, while living on the Craig village farm. She counted local members of the Rowe, Bayley, Swett, Farnsworth, Thresher, Livingston, Fields, Schoolcraft, Somers, Farrow, White, Kinerson, Churchill, Quimby, and Moore families as early and life long friends. She joined the Peacham Congregational Church in 1929. She graduated from the University of Vermont with her Bachelor of Science in Home Economics in 1938, and was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, the Mortar Board Society, and the rifle team. In September, 1938, she entered Yale School of Nursing, and graduated in 1941 with her Masters Degree in Nursing. Throughout her education years, her loving aunts Myrtie Cogger and Mary Craig supported her efforts with the much needed extra finances.
Phyllis was an operating room nurse for Yale-New Haven Hospital when she married Ralph M. Graves in 1943. They lived in New Haven until Ralph entered the US Merchant Marine Service, and their first son, Richard, was born there in 1944. From 1941 to 1944, she worked at Yale-New Haven Hospital, until she returned to Peacham, spent time teaching nursing, and working as a full time nurse at Brightlook Hospital, St. Johnsbury. In 1947, Phyllis and Ralph purchased their farm between East Peacham and West Barnet, where they lived for 23 years. In this very rural town, she was a mother to five children, a substitute teacher, an occasional school nurse, a community benefactor with clubs and church, a temporary mother for young babies, always the town's emergency clinician, often a private visiting nurse, and a hospice nurse to many families in need. As her children began college, she returned to work full time as a nursing supervisor and teaching LPN courses-- briefly at Brightlook Hospital and for seven years at St. Johnsbury Hospital.
In 1971, Phyllis moved to Brevard, N.C., as her husband Ralph had retired from farming and the machinist trade, and with their youngest daughter Deborah, they found a warmer, yet mountainous, and at that time still rural home. In Brevard, Phyllis assisted and then directed the founding of a hospital based community health outreach and home visiting service--Transylvania County Home Health. As the founding director until her retirement in 1982, she brought that service from one nurse (herself), one home aide, and one LPN, to 18 registered and practical nurses and 15 aides--while she continued her own round of home visits. After 1982, she helped form a volunteer Hospice group in Brevard, and served as the necessary registered nurse for that group for two years.
In 1994, after the death of her husband Ralph, Phyllis moved from Brevard to Montpelier, Vt., and lived near two daughters, Susan and Rebecca, for nine years. In Brevard, she left her friends--the Siniard, Wyatt, Meisenheimer, Bryant, Churchill, and Averette families. Until 2007, she made annual trips to spend three months or more with her special grandson Colin at Deborah and James Pipes' homes in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Kansas. During her later Vermont years, she took great pleasure in her times of country retreat at her son's Barnet farm, where turkey, deer, cattle, horses, and hay harvests ranged in the view from her favorite chair, and the several dogs and cats stood at the door's window awaiting the opening to her affections.
For the past eight years, Phyllis lived in St. Johnsbury, Vt., at the St. Johnsbury House and the Canterbury Inn. For those seeking historical and genealogical verifications, she was a valued and accurate connection with her recollections of long past styles, language, ways of trade, and rural manners. She was the connection between family and friends, writing innumerable letters in the dawn hours.
In 1991, Phyllis was awarded Yale University's School of Nursing Distinguished Alumna Award. In part, the honorarium stated, "Pioneer, founder, innovator, developer, and a woman of substance, her career has been marked by an ability to adapt her commitment to nursing in any situation. Nursing is as much an integral part of her identity as are mother and wife. .. the foundation for her outstanding achievement in nursing practice with the establishment of a home health nursing agency in North Carolina...which set a standard for home health care which was a model for the region...".
Phyllis Craig Graves was predeceased by two brothers, Robert and James, two sisters, Gladys Nelson and Doris McBride, her husband Ralph, her son Richard, and her nieces and nephews from Vermont's Craig and McBride families and from Illinois's Graves, Pankey, Rister, and Vaughn families. She is survived by her daughter Susan (Thomas) Ball, Montpelier, Vt., her daughter Rebecca (Charles) Holden, Lyndonville, Vt., her son William (Lisa Delabruere), Barnet, Vt., her daughter Deborah (James) Pipes, Logan, Kansas, her stepdaughter Louise (Darrell) Abel, Puryear, Tenn., her nephew James (Theresa) Mc Bride, Panton, Vt., her five grandsons, her six granddaughters, and her 14 great grandchildren.
A graveside service at Peacham Cemetery is planned at 10:30 on Saturday morning, Oct. 12, 2013, with a gathering for friends and family later that day at William Graves home. Gifts in Phyllis's memory may be made to the Collector, Peacham Congregational Church, PO Box 205, Peacham, Vermont 05862.
Sayles Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.