Eugene Dale Graber — our precious Dad, grandfather and great-grandfather — was born to Joseph C. and Alvina Graber on March 8, 1926, in rural Freeman, S.D. As a child, Eugene attended Diamond Valley School, the country school where his parents also attended. Eugene was second in birth order of four children: older brother, Clarence; younger sister, Esther; and younger brother, LaVerne. Living with his family on a farm, Eugene learned the value of hard work and had an amazing work ethic. As a teen, Eugene attended Freeman Academy, played basketball, and later attended Freeman Jr College. It was there that he met Beverly Nelsen, and they married in 1951. Together they had three children: Teresa, Diana and Stan. They owned a large Brown Swiss herd and dairy operation, as well as crop farming. Family vacations consisted of annual trips to Big Stone Lake, where Eugene loved fishing with friends and family, and many happy memories were made.
In 1978, Eugene married Marilyn Jensen of Chester, S.D., and together they farmed nearly 20 years. She brought five daughters to the family, that Eugene was there and cared for over the years. They retired from farming in 1996, yet remained on the farm until 2012, when they moved into the Salem Mennonite Home in Freeman. Later they moved to Howard, then the Tieszen Home in Marion, S.D., where Marilyn passed away in Oct. 2018, with Eugene by her side.
In January 2019, Eugene was able to return to his beloved home of Freeman, the Salem Home and to be near the Graber family farm. He lived those final days to the fullest in the company of family, making frequent trips to the farm, to friend’s visits, his lifetime hobbies and time with staff at the Home. He always loved sharing a good piece of pie and ice cream too!
Throughout his adult life, Eugene loved time with his children, his grand and great-grandchildren, and his brothers and their families. He enjoyed watching the kids/grand kids play sports, from baseball, to track to volleyball, and always loved a good game of pool - yes, he usually won.
He loved the outdoors and spending time with his dogs, cats and farm animals, and better yet, the shared time with family. Eugene’s passion for the St. Louis Cardinals lasted a lifetime, from listening to AM radio games with his brothers as a child, to attending games to amassing a sizable memorabilia collection to last week watching via TV. He was so excited for the 2019 season, they lost a faithful fan. And not to be forgotten, tracing back to farming days, Eugene had amassed an M&M tractor collection matched by few.
As a child, Eugene attended Salem Mennonite Church with his family, and continued to attend up until the last years of his life, as he was able to. Eugene was someone who walked in love, compassion and gentleness. Eugene exemplified what Jesus told us to do, when He said, “when you’ve done it for the least of these, you’ve done it to Me.”
Eugene was always ready to serve or give, when people had a need. Even in his later years of life, Eugene put others before himself. He was always so positive and never complained about physical challenges or limitations he might’ve been facing. Even when he was hospitalized
last time, when asked how he was, he often responded, “I’m pretty good,” with a hopeful tone in his voice. Eugene had a quiet inner strength about him. Eugene will be remembered as a wonderful father, husband, brother, grandfather, uncle, cousin and friend.
Eugene went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on April 9th, 2019. He was blessed to be loved and surrounded by family and friends in his last days. Eugene is survived by his three children, Teresa Graber, Diana (Joel) Ziolkowski, and Stan (Stacey) Graber; his brother, LaVerne (Janice) Graber, and sister-in-law, Gertie Graber; two cousins; eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews; as well five step-daughters, Susan Buck, Cheryl Johnson, Cindy Wood, Carla Henrichs, and Gayle Potter; seven step-grandchildren, and seven step-great-grandchildren. We will miss you deeply~
In Lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Salem Mennonite Church, MCC or Freeman Academy.