Henry Lee Graf
Henry Lee Graf, much-loved husband of Roma Lee Taunton, died on August 2, 2018. A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri, Henry (92) was acknowledged as an outstanding athlete, adept lawyer, and avid jazz fan. He was a devoted son; loving uncle; reluctant, but doting and supportive life partner; and loyal friend.
Henry marched to his own drummer. With partner Bill Ege, he emerged as a standout junior tennis player in Public Parks Tournaments and the KC Interscholastic Tennis League. Early 1940s Kansas City Star writers dubbed him “the mighty mite of the 15 and under boy’s doubles”. They described him further as “so small he could almost chin himself on the net”, noting his “speedy footwork” and that he played a “sparkling game against his taller opponents”. One article began, “Westport Still Rules” as Henry and Bill, along with Bill Miller, Bob Gershon, and other team members, continued to dominate the Kansas City Interscholastic Tennis League.
1945 found Henry in the US Navy and on the roster for the Fleet Sonar School Varsity Basketball Team. Acknowledging the indomitable spirit of the School’s cage men, the February 15, 1945, Echo reported that the team “continues its whirlwind pace toward the Island Serviceman’s Basketball League Championship.
Henry started his career trek by enrolling at the University of Missouri-Columbia (BA, 1950). The next stop was the University of Kansas City School of Law, where he was initiated into the Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity (BL, 1953). He enjoyed a solo general law practice for 52 years. In 1971 he obtained a Master’s Degree in International Law at UMKC.
Tennis remained a lifetime driving force for Henry. With partners Leonard Prosser, Larry Belt, Terry Tippin Miller, and Graydon Nichols, he achieved regional and national ranking, winning many local and Missouri Valley championships. He was a finalist in the 1991 USTA National Indoor Mixed Doubles Tournament, and took Third Place in the 2000 USTA National Men’s 75 Indoor Doubles Tournament.
Henry loved jazz, especially the piano. He delighted in concerts presented by either the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra or the UMKC Jazz Bands. Piano virtuoso Frank Mantooth was his favorite artist.
Henry made you smile when you saw him. He treasured his nieces and nephews, and was always there as friend, counselor, and wise sage. He always told you what he thought!
Surviving to cherish Henry’s memory are wife Roma Lee; nephews Gary Lee Graf, Karl Graf (Kathy); nieces Rebecca Danby (Jim), Vicki Bell (Jim); sister-in-law Kay Doubleday (John); grandnieces Jennifer Seagroves (Shane), Taylar Graf; grandnephews Travis Lee Graf (Megan), Cody Lee Graf (Jennifer), Jeremy Bell; great grandniece/nephews Nora Jean Seagroves, Riley William Graf, Mason Lee Graf. Preceding him in death have been parents Carl and Wilhelmina Graf, sister Frieda Davis and husband Stanley, brother Victor Graf and wife Jean.
The family extends special thanks to the staff at Garden Terrace-Overland Park for 2.5 years of exemplary care and to Cheryl Westra and Greg Brown for valued assistance and friendship.
Condolences may be expressed at CremationCenterKC.com. Memorial contributions will be appreciated. Suggestions for donations are to the Jazz Studies Scholarship Fund (UMKCFoundation.org) or to the Taunton Nursing Student Research Fund (kumc/iami/ku-endowment.html.
JAZZ ‘N HENRY II: A Celebration of Life: Saturday, August 25, 2018, 7-9 pm. All Souls U U Church, 4501 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO. Casual attire, tennis togs requested.