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Columbia Missourian

Frank Graham worked as 4-H leader, loved baseball

By Hannah Baldwin
September 20, 2013 | 8:17 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — World War II got in the way of Frank Graham's goal of playing professional baseball.

He pitched for the Missouri Tigers from 1941 to 1942 before joining the Army, where he served as an infantry officer who trained paratroopers until he was discharged on Thanksgiving Day 1945.

"I thought I was an old man when I got out of the service," Mr. Graham said in a video for the Missourian's recent "100 Ages: A Century of Voices" project. "Twenty-six. I'd lost about four years of good time for baseball to find out if I could make it (as a professional)."

Albert Franklin Graham of Columbia died Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. He was 93.

Mr. Graham was born April 29, 1920, to George B. and Wilma Bryant Graham.

His younger brother, George Graham, remembered growing up on a farm in Fair Grove, where they worked corn and hay fields with mules and horses, milked cows by hand and put up hay in the barn with pitchforks.

"We worked hard farmin'," George said. 

When the brothers had free time, they played baseball.

"We grew up playing catch together," George Graham said.

Mr. Graham studied agriculture at MU as a young man, where he was a member of the FarmHouse Fraternity. He was also a member of the Epsilon Sigma Phi National Honor Society and served as president of Gamma Sigma Delta, the National Honor Society of Agriculture.

Mr. Graham worked with livestock and agriculture for much of his career. He worked at MU Extension for 33 years, including 17 as the director of the Missouri 4-H Youth Development Program. He retired from MU Extension in 1975 but continued to serve 4-H as a member of the board of trustees. He was eventually named an Honorary Life Member.

Mr. Graham also donated 2 acres of land in 1984 to the Boone County Extension Center office, according to previous Missourian reporting.

"He loved 4-H. Why was he so involved with 4-H? Well, that was his field," Sibyl Graham, his sister-in-law, said.

Mr. Graham won the Nelson Trickey 4-H Bridge Builder Award in 2007. He was inducted into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame in 2011.

He loved to work with young people, Sibyl Graham said, adding that he liked to watch them develop and learn.

"He liked to play baseball and work with the 4-H kids," George Graham said.

Mr. Graham also served as Boone County presiding commissioner from the late '80s to early '90s.

Mr. Graham is survived by his wife Olive; a daughter, Judy Layher of Branson; stepchildren Chad Briggs, Joey O'Neill and Michael Briggs; his brother George Graham and his wife, Sibyl, of Nevada, Mo.; 13 grandchildren, Sabrina Graham, Jerry Graham Jr., Shelley Quinney, Michelle Testman, Kevin Patrick, Kyle Patrick, Rob Patrick, Lori Graham, Melody Plant, Leo Graham, Justin Graham, Travis Graham and Destiny Graham; two stepgrandchildren, Meghan O'Neill, Corie O'Neil,l and their father Tom O'Neill; 25 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great grandchildren.

Mr. Graham's first wife Emma Jean Graham; a son, Jerry Graham; and a sister, Bernice Bryant, died earlier.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 2201 W. Rollins Road. A memorial service will follow at 4 p.m. at the church.

Memorials may be given to the Missouri 4-H Foundation, Frank Graham Leadership Fund, 1110 S. College Ave., Columbia, MO 65211 or the Central Missouri Honor Flight, 1400 Forum Blvd, Suite 38, Box 334, Columbia, MO 65203.

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