St. Simons Island
Roy William Montrose “Mont” Graham, Junior passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 7, 2021 on St. Simons Island, Georgia at age 95. Mont was born on June 15, 1925 to Lt. Roy William Montrose Graham, USN (future Rear Admiral) and Jeanne Elmendorf Graham in Annapolis, Maryland. He was baptized in 1925 in the Bethlehem Chapel, beneath what would later become our National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
Born into a Navy family, Mont moved about the country often, easily making friends everywhere he went. Before graduating High School, he lived in Annapolis, Maryland twice; New Haven, Connecticut; Honolulu, Hawaii twice; San Diego, California twice; Washington, DC; Newport, Rhode Island; Bremerton, Washington twice; and San Pedro, California twice.
Mont was advanced ahead in school two years, and graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu June 1941 at age 16. He was a Freshman at the University of Hawaii on December 7th. His UH ROTC Unit was activated that morning. Although Mont was a Squad Leader in his Unit, the US Army rejected him because he was only 16. He spent the night of December 7th and the next week as a volunteer Rifleman in a Marine Squad guarding the US Navy Radio Tower at Wailupe. Mont left Hawaii in the Summer of 1942 to visit family in California and Tennessee, and enrolled in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville while awaiting his 18th birthday. On his way to US Navy Officer’s Candidate School in Georgia in the Summer of 1943, he received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and was directed there. Just after VJ Day ending WWII in August 1945, Mont left the USNA to complete his studies at the University of Tennessee. He graduated from UT in May 1947. Mont attended the University of Chicago for post- graduate work in 1947 and early 1948.
While at UT, Mont fell in love with the South, and chose to pursue a career in textiles. He joined Burlington Industries in Greensboro, North Carolina as a Methods Engineer in early 1949, beginning his single 38 year career in textile management. Burlington grew into the largest textile manufacturing company in the world during his era. Mont served in various capacities for Burlington, managing the Textile Waste Control and Sales Division for his last 22 years until retirement in 1987.
On a blind date over the Christmas Holidays in 1951, Mont met Shirley Marshall “Pru” Pruden, returning home from art school in Sarasota, Florida to visit her family in Greensboro, Reidsville, and Danville, Virginia. An accomplished portrait artist, Pru had studied art in New York City at the Parsons School of Design; in Provincetown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and in Sarasota at the Ringling School of Art. The date was apparently very successful, as Pru moved home soon thereafter. Mont and Pru were married on September 13, 1952 in St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Reidsville, North Carolina. After honeymooning at The Cloister on Sea Island, Georgia, they made their first home in Greensboro and began their own family. Mont and Pru settled in Reidsville in 1958, and were happily together for 55 years until Pru’s passing in June 2007. Mont spent his last years in Sandy Springs, Georgia and on St. Simons Island.
Mont was known in Reidsville as The Scoutmaster. He began volunteering with the Boy Scouts in 1967 with Troop 738 attached to St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Across his 10 years as Scoutmaster and his 20 years as Troop Committee Member and Chairman, Troop 738 produced nearly 60 Eagle Scouts and scores of great Scouts. All proud “Roy’s Boys.” Across North Carolina and Southern tennis circles, Mont was known as The Umpire. He began as an administrator and tournament director for the NC Tennis Association in the early 1970’s, and gradually took on more and more administrative responsibility with the NCTA and the Southern Tennis Association, eventually becoming a regionally and nationally respected lead Umpire. He “called lines” at the US Open in New York several times during the 1990’s, and trained scores of future Umpires across the South. Mont was inducted into the NCTA Hall of Fame in 1992, one of its few non- playing volunteer members. Lesser known was Mont’s dedication to helping adults in Rockingham County learn to read. Through the Rockingham County Library System, he was a mentor and teacher in their Adult Reading Program. His students included people whose early educational opportunity had been cut short, and people just learning to speak and read proficiently in English.
Dad will lovingly be remembered for his delight in telling his signature “cornball” jokes. He had a million of them, some actually very funny. We all teased him about his offbeat Hawaiian sense of humor, though we continue to pass his best jokes on down. He could remember the detail of every seriously funny thing he ever did, and he was willing to share it. He left us with a lot of humor material. Dad will also be remembered for his love for each generation of his family, past and present, human and “Grahaminal.” All the family Grahaminals loved him as much as the rest of us, and he is already missed by all.
Mont was preceded in death by his parents Roy and Jeanne, his loving wife Pru, and his loving friend Ruth Deubler. He is succeeded by his 4 children: Ridgely “Rip” Montrose Graham (Charlotte) of St. Simons Island, Georgia; John Franklin Montrose Graham (Geddings Arthur) of Atlanta, Georgia; James “Jim” Gordon Montrose Graham of Sumter, South Carolina; and Helen Marshall Graham (Taunya Land) of Raleigh, North Carolina. He is succeeded by his 4 grandchildren: Ridgely Hall Montrose Graham (Brittany) of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Julia Ferree Graham Jackson (Trey) of Birmingham, Alabama; Jordan Read Montrose Graham (Morgan) of Norfolk, Virginia; and Joan Tallon Graham of Columbia, South Carolina. He is succeeded also by his 5 great grandchildren: John “Jack” David Montrose Graham and William “Will” Caleb Montrose Graham of Colorado Springs; Isabelle Ferree Jackson and David Cross Jackson of Birmingham; and Gray Walter Montrose Graham of Norfolk.
The family would like to thank all of the caring professionals and staff that have supported Dad over the last few years of his wonderful life, including those from: Mount Vernon Towers and Campbell- Stone in Sandy Springs; Northside Hospital and Emory- St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta; Magnolia Manor on St. Simons Island; and Hospice of the Golden Isles and Southeast Regional Health System in Brunswick, Georgia.
The family will gather together in the near future to celebrate Dad’s life, and to inter his ashes in the Ferree/Hall/Graham gravesite in Mount View Cemetery in Danville, Virginia. Contributions made in his honor might be made to the local Boy Scout Troop of your choice. Dad would be most appreciative.
Low Country Cremation and Burial is serving the Graham family.
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