Robert Preston Graves

January 29, 1921 - September 2, 2012
Robert Preston Graves

Robert Preston Graves, Sr. passed away on Sunday September 2, 2012 at Trinity Grove Nursing Home in Wilmington, NC.

He was born on January 29, 1921 in Marshall, VA, the son of the late Rev. Turner Ashby and Talmah Weikel Graves. He spent elementary school and high school years in Salem, Virginia, where his father was the director of the Lutheran Children’s Home.

Preston “Poppy” Graves graduated from the military corps at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was a guard on VPI’s football team. After graduation, he worked briefly at Bethlehem Steel until he was old enough to be commissioned as an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. He was the operations officer of the 46th Engineer Battalion building airfields in the Pacific during WWII. He was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for his valor in keeping the Leyte airfield open in the face of “repeated enemy bombing and strafing attacks”. He served in the Vietnam War in charge of inspecting and accepting all U.S. construction projects, especially roads.

While stationed at Ft. Belvoir, VA, in the early sixties, he was commandant of the Army Nuclear Power Plant operator training facility, and later was deputy commander of the army’s mapping research organization, GIMRADA, which conducted early research on the use of satellite mapping data. Next, he commanded a battalion mapping North Africa from Liberia to Ethiopia. Earlier, he built a military base near the Russian border in Iran. In the late sixties, he served at NATO headquarters near Brussels, Belgium. He retired from the Army in 1972 with the rank of full Colonel, Regular Army. He was a graduate of the NATO Defense College, the Army Command and General Staff College, and completed courses at these universities: Purdue, Michigan, and Virginia.

During his army career he and his family lived in Germany, Italy, Libya, and Belgium and in Virginia, Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky, and Alabama.

After his military retirement, Preston and his wife Alma moved to the campus of Woodberry Forest School, near Orange, Virginia, where Preston joined the faculty as a math teacher. They lived on the school campus for more than 20 years until Preston retired from teaching, and then relocated to Wilmington, N.C. in 1993.

Preston was an avid golfer and served as a course manager at Woodberry Forest School and as a course ranger at Landfall in Wilmington. He was an active gardener until the age of 90 and delivered fresh vegetables to his neighbors via golf cart.Preston was honored with the first StarNews Good Neighbor Award.

Preston’s years in Wilmington were enriched by his loving Renovah Circle neighbors and by the congregation of Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, and his pastors Rev. John Misenheimer and Rev. Mark Opgrand.

Preston was preceded in death by: his beloved wife of nearly 68 years, Alma Henderson Darden, his brother Turner Ashby Graves Jr., and by his youngest son, George Dickerson Graves. Surviving are a sister, Betty Lynn Yowell, and a brother, Richard Graves and his wife Joey. Also, one daughter: Annabel Graves Ratley, and husband Griffin of Tucson, AZ; his four sons: Robert Preston Graves Jr. and wife Nancy of Houston, TX; James Ashby Graves and wife Sharon of Belmont, MA; John Marshall Graves and wife Christy of Lake Mary, FL; Mark David Graves and wife Becky of Clemmons, NC; daughter-in-law: Ginnie Kuhn, and a special family friend, Shawn Best; thirteen grandchildren: Preston, Paul and Julie Graves; Griffin, Emily and Steven Ratley, Ian and Peter Graves, Betsi Graves and Erin DeVane, Jessica Nguyen, Kendall LaBruyere, and Alec Graves; and four great grandchildren.

Memorial Services will be held at Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on Saturday Sept. 15 at 11 am with internment at Hebron Lutheran Church near Madison, VA at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Lower Cape Fear Hospice (1406 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401) would be appreciated.

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Sign Guest Book” tab above.

Wilmington Funeral and Cremation, 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403 910.791.9099


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  • September 12, 2012
    Lucy Rice says:
    Poppy was my Uncle Preston. To all his children and family, I know this is a great loss. The prayers and thoughts of the Rice family are with you.

  • September 05, 2012
    Jim & Rachel Graves says:
    Just know you are in our thoughts and prayers. Your Dad was a special person as you well know. May the memories of the great times you had together give you comfort during this sad time. Love, Jimmy and Rachel

  • September 04, 2012
    Bobetta Clark-Jones says:
    I am so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers for your family

  • September 09, 2012
    Hilary, Tom & Warren Parker says:
    Poppy and Bum were the best next door neighbors & friends & confidants anyone anywhere could have had, and they became more than friends to us...They became part of our extended family. (In fact I think our son Warren was 6 or 7 when he finally realized that Poppy and Bum weren't actually his real grandparents!) Simply put, they were the best of the best, and we loved them both with all our hearts. Our world is dimmer for their departure but richer for the gift of love, laughter, and friendship they bestowed upon us. How lucky were we to have had them in our lives? Thank you Graves Family for sharing your wonderful parents so generously with us. We are forever in your debt. We send much love to you along with our grateful hearts for the gift of Poppy and Alma, Hilary, Tom & Warren Parker

  • September 11, 2012
    Wendy Poole says:
    I work at Trinity Grove Nursing Home and this is how I came to know "Poppy". He deeply touched my heart with his love for life, sense of humor and always a cheerful attitude. He was a man I deeply respect. I would like to offer my condolences to his family. Wendy, known to Poppy as "Sunshine"