Obituary of John A. Graml
John Alois Graml passed away on Sunday, January 29 at the age of 82, after a gracefully fought battle with Lewy body dementia. Husband, father, brother, uncle, cousin, and genuine friend to too many to count, John’s passing leaves a gaping hole in our hearts.
The first of five siblings born to Marion and Joseph Graml in Shreveport, Louisiana, John grew up in a simpler time, listening to stories shared by family and neighbors on the front porch and roaming free with the neighborhood kids until the dinner bell rang. He was active in the Boy Scouts, and honed his one-of-a-kind dance moves in the clubs across the Red River bridge in Bossier City. Childhood summers included road trips out west (often with three adults and six kids crammed into an unairconditioned sedan) and carefree days on the water, skiing and sailing with siblings, cousins and friends. During the school year John ran his own paper route, earning money that his father invested and that would later provide a financial foothold when he married his soulmate, Dina(h).
John’s parents instilled in him the values he lived by – sacrifice, a strong work ethic, loyalty, respect, compassion, generosity, and above all, integrity. A man of purpose, John rarely stood idle. He built a respected family law practice and trained up many a young lawyer over the decades. He rolled up his sleeves and thought outside the box, took professional foes to lunch, and bantered with friends at the courthouse. Those who worked with, or had cases against, John Graml, always say the same thing: He was a tenacious advocate for his clients, always ethical, professional, and courteous. He was part of the very first class to earn state board certification in family law, served on various Bar committees, was active in promoting the Red Mass, and so much more. He loved being a lawyer.
John Graml was gregarious, unpretentious, authentically human. He could, and would, strike up a conversation with anyone. He talked to people in elevators. He complimented the ties of young men who looked like they were on the way to an interview. He discussed human rights and financial planning with friends of his children, and talked politics with folks he met standing in line. No matter your station in life, you were worthy of his interest, time and respect, of engaging in important discourse. John challenged everyone to think critically, and was always willing to explore another point of view. He reminded us all that the food we were about to receive was brought to us on the backs of folks laboring long and hard, and for very little pay.
He was a compassionate conservative who never voted straight party, and he possessed a deep and varied curiosity. During the last couple of years before winding down his law practice, John took an 8-month social justice course at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, his and Dina’s spiritual home of 50 years. That endeavor seemed to set him up for the next phase of life. He was busier than ever in retirement, serving on committees at St. Michaels and on the Board of Directors at Amazing Place. And nearly every Wednesday for nine years John headed off to jail, providing spiritual support to men behind bars through the Correctional Ministries Office of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, then under the leadership of Father Ron Cloutier. John’s passion for this work came as no surprise to our family, who knew him as both a Goldwater Republican and a man whose greatest disappointment in Reagan was the failure to competently and compassionately address the AIDS crisis.
For John, relationships were everything, and he made the effort to nurture his friendships, from Byrd High buddies and Briarcroft neighbors, to sailing pals in Kemah and fellow volunteers. Most who knew John knew of his love for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the lifelong friendships he forged while SMU. As an alumnus, John founded the Delta Upsilon chapter at the University of Houston in 1977, and over the years organized many fundraisers and reunions, collaborating with Betas of all ages and school affiliations. John was briefly on active duty in the Coast Guard before heading to law school, later serving in the reserves where he developed lasting relationships with fellow reservists.
John and Dina met in Austin, where he was attending law school and she was wrapping up her bachelor’s degree (both at UT). Sparked by a mutual admiration for the music of Mario Lanza, John was captivated by Dina’s beauty, charm, and strength of character. They were married for 56 years, the loves of each others’s lives. John and Dina raised three grateful children who provided them with five grandchildren. Sailing in Galveston Bay and family trips to Austin, San Antonio, New Braunfels, Port Aransas, New Orleans, and Colorado are etched into our minds. So are the many weddings and parties where John would cut a rug with any number of family members, friends and colleagues brave enough to get out on the floor with him. He was, to some, the White James Brown. In quieter times, John and Dina would often head to Kemah to spend the weekend on the boat, away from responsibilities. Time on the water seemed to transform John, freeing his mind and providing relaxation.
John dearly loved and enjoyed spending time with his extended family. He was the rock at its core. He and Dina helped shepherd many through difficult periods, in some cases over the course of decades. John was the person to call. If he couldn’t help you, he’d find someone who could. He faithfully visited ailing friends, lent a hand to neighbors, and provided counsel to those in need. John lived the teachings of Christ.
About 20 years ago, John had the opportunity to sail with a small group from Key West back to Kemah. He took the early morning shift, sailing across the open water, no land in sight. As darkness gave way to dawn, a pod of bottlenose dolphins joined him, playfully leaping out of the water alongside the boat. He described this experience as incredibly spiritual. We imagine him now, sailing with the dolphins, having joined those loved ones who have gone before him, finally at peace, watching over us.
John was preceded in death by his parents, Marion and Joseph Graml, and his infant brother Robert. He is survived by his wife, Dina Hallmark Graml; daughters, Kelly Graml and Kathryn Graml; son, Greg Graml and wife Adrienne Anderson; grandchildren, Francie, Heidi, John Joseph, Caroline, and Henry; siblings, Charles Graml and wife Nancy, Betty Fulton, and Barbara Lytle and husband Mark; and nephews and nieces, Trevor Nichols, Anna Smith, Robin Lambourn, Shannon Fulton, and Ramsey Fulton.
A recitation of the Holy Rosary will begin at 4:00 p.m., on Sunday, February 5, 2023 at All Saints Catholic Church, 215 East 10th Street in Houston, Texas. A visitation will follow until 7:00 p.m. to give everyone an opportunity to share memories and say a few words about John.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 1:00 p.m., on Monday, February 6, 2023 also at All Saints Catholic Church.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Amazing Place Houston (www.amazingplacehouston.org/donate/) or the Lewy Body Dementia Association (www.lbda.org/donate/)