Service for Douglas teacher, coach, leader is Saturday

A memorial service for retired Douglas High School teacher, former county commissioner and winning coach Josie Graham is 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Gall Catholic Church in Gardnerville.

A Minden resident, Graham, 70, died Wednesday. A rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. today.

Jerome Etchegoyhen was principal of Douglas High School when Josie Graham started teaching there.

"She was a very nice lady," Etchegoyhen said. "She got along well with students and all the kids liked her."

Graham went to work for the Douglas County School District in 1968 as a physical education teacher and coach.

"I love teaching," she told R-C writer Carissa Cronkright on her retirement in 1994. "I decided when I was in the fourth grade that I wanted to be a teacher."

A 1957 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Graham was born in Lovelock.

She coached the Douglas High volleyball team through a nearly undefeated season on the way to winning the AAA state championship in 1983.

Graham and her husband, George, raised four children in Douglas County and in 1985 was diagnosed with cancer. She took a leave of absence and went from teaching physical education to teaching geography and eventually world history and government.

George Graham was superintendent of schools.

In 1991, Graham got to put her government teachings into practice when she was appointed by Gov. Bob Miller to finish commissioner Barbara Cook's term.

Gardnerville dentist Mike Fischer knew Graham as a patient and served with her on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

"It's interesting when you know people on a number of levels," Fischer said. "I knew Josie and George as patients of mine and I knew their kids when they were growing up. They were an all-American family of wonderful people."

Fischer said that after their long association, he knew Graham would make a good commissioner.

"I knew she would be reasonable and rational. What I didn't know was that if I ended up crosswise of her I would get the school teacher lecture. She was always polite and kind and did a great job as a commissioner. She was one of those rare individuals who had no ax to grind and no interest rather than trying to do the right thing. And when I got that school teacher lecture, it must have been because I was doing the wrong thing."

Retired Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen said Graham was an advocate for children.

"She was most certainly a children's person," he said. "Anything involving the kids, she was really involved."

Graham lived behind the Jacobsens and he said whenever she wanted to talk politics she would come over.

"Anything that was interesting to her in politics, all she had to do was walk out her back door and walk into our house."

Jacobsen and Gardnerville assemblyman Lou Bergevin nominated Graham for the commission seat.

"She was a good member of the community, who served on a number of boards and commissions," he said. "And her husband, George Graham, was a retired Marine, and I was in the Navy, so we always had something in common. We were always very close."

She is survived by daughters and sons in law Patti and Steve Speer, Suzi and JoJo Townsell, Coco and Don Bland; son Mike Graham; siblings, Caroline, Annie, Jane, Katie, John, Virginia, and Carl; and six grandchildren, Breana, Jared, Mysta, Mia, Deidre, and Davis.


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