Remembering Jackie Graves

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jackie Graves

Fundraising effort raises
money to get boxer headstone

In his prime nearly six decades ago, everybody knew the name Jackie Graves. But later in his life, the World Boxing Hall of Famer became somewhat forgotten, according to boxing historian Jake Wegner.

“(When Graves was fighting), everybody knew his name,” Wegner said. “That’s one thing he missed later in life, is people forget who you are.”

Graves — a featherweight boxer ranked for several years in the world top 10 in the 1940s — lived in Austin nearly all his life, died Nov. 15, 2005, at Good Samaritan Center in Albert Lea and was buried a few days later in Oakwood Cemetery. But because of miscommunication and a lack of money, the man who purchased a plot and headstones for many in his immediate family is lying in an unmarked grave.

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Now, after a fundraising effort by Mayor Tom Stiehm, enough money was raised to get Graves a tombstone. It appears, Wegner said, the Austin sports legend is no longer forgotten.

“For a guy who accomplished as much as he did when boxing was so incredibly difficult, to know you could walk over his grave and not know it, it was unacceptable to me,” Wegner said. “I knew there was no money to pay for a gravestone. It means a lot to me that he finally has one.”

It means a lot to Graves’ only living child, too.

Danny Graves, 67, who now lives in Spokane, Wash., said he is surprised by the recent publicity his father is getting. Graves has been in the World Boxing Hall of Fame since 2006, but was inducted into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame on Oct. 11. Between that and the fundraiser for the gravestone, Danny said he’s overwhelmed.

“I’m just really humbled by it,” he said. “I know my dad would be also, I can’t say enough about Austin and the people there. They stayed in his corner. I’m just really taken away by it.”

Danny said he was really surprised to learn his father was in an unmarked grave, and didn’t know that was the case until Stiehm began the fundraiser.

“I had no idea my dad didn’t have a headstone,” he said. “No one mentioned anything to me (at the funeral). You think they would have mentioned it to me.”

But since Stiehm began fundraising in July, he said they have raised close to $2,800. So with Anderson Memorial making a contribution, Stiehm said they have more than enough to create a fitting gravestone.

“It went very well,” Stiehm said of the fundraiser. “We’re very pleased with how the people responded. Jackie Graves will absolutely get at least a gravestone out of this.”

Depending if they raise more money, Stiehm said there could be enough for a memorial, too, and he suggests Eastside Park as a perfect location for the former eastsider.

To make a donation or for more information, call Stiehm at 507-437-4092. Checks should be made to “Jackie Graves Memorial c/o Tom Stiehm.”