Beverly Jean Graham, 97, of Sarasota, Florida, beloved wife of Otto Everett Graham Jr., passed away Nov. 26, 2021 with family by her side. Bev spent a lifetime embracing family, faith, volunteerism and sport. Born in Beloit, Wisconsin on Aug. 6, 1924, she grew up in Des Plains with parents Fred and Mary Collinge, and older brothers John and Duane. The family moved to Wabash, Indiana as Bev was entering 8th grade. An accomplished English and music student at Wabash High, she was the girls basketball captain, summer lifeguard at the city pool, and a strong voice in the church choir. Frolicking with her peers in Daddy’s roadster showcased a playful side that won Bev friends throughout her life.
Bev attended Stevens College in Missouri for one year before transferring to Northwestern University to chase her singing dream. While Bev packed for NU, her mom was heard cheering the radio broadcast of a young Northwestern All-Star running a Sammy Baugh interception 97 yards for the game clinching touchdown. Voicing her hope to be lucky enough to meet someone like Otto Graham, fate would step in and make it so. Their paths crossed on campus soon after, and their love would span the next six decades, 58 as husband and wife, until Otto’s passing in 2003.
If Otto was the hub of the wagon wheel, then Bev was the glue holding the spokes together. Their personalities proved a blessed balance. While Otto created his legend, Bev made a modest one of her own, becoming an excellent golfer while raising her children, surviving polio, enduring the pain of losing a son to SIDS, and without hesitation opening her heart and home to many foster children. Bev worked in healthcare, supported local charities, church events, and Northwestern Alums as the oldest living Kappa nationwide. She was treasured by her Coast Guard Academy family and was instrumental in fundraising for the Waterford Country school nearby. Her passion was reading, baking, traveling, and watching golf, tennis, and football on weekends.
Bev was beloved by celebrities, athletes, admirals, astronauts, and presidents alike and could hold her own in any social setting. She and Otto starred in their own nightly Cleveland talk show, and Bev was the national spokesperson for Serta and Motorola; however, she was far more comfortable toiling in her garden and hanging with the other parents at her children’s games and after school activities. Bev’s final public appearance was 2019, in Cleveland, Ohio for the Browns’ dedication of a bronze statue in Otto’s honor.
Beverly was predeceased by her parents, brothers, their wives, infant son Steven, grandson Erik, and most of Otto’s and her generation.
She is survived by five children: Duey Graham of Jefferson, Maine; Sandy Van Name of Sarasota, Florida; Dave Graham (and wife Mary) of Port Saint Lucie, Florida; Kay Hawkins of New Port Richey, Florida; and Charee Gile of Lynchburg, Virginia, as well as John and Duane’s families, and her own 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.
Bev has requested a private family service and will be interred alongside Otto in Sarasota, Florida.