Graves finally at rest

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm and Jeff Anderson of Anderson Memorial unveil the new grave marker for Jackie Graves Saturday morning at Oakwood Cemetery. -- Eric Johnson/

Local boxing legend receives tombstone

It was another knockout for “The Austin Atom.” Friends and family of John Thomas “Jackie” Graves gathered at Oakwood Cemetery at 11 a.m. Saturday to honor the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Famer — who was in an unmarked grave — with a new tombstone.

“Jackie’s always been an icon for the city of Austin,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said.

The more than two dozen people attending huddled around when Stiehm and Anderson Memorial’s Jeff Anderson unveiled the new modest-sized, but intricate headstone to honor Austin’s boxing legend.

“That’s just beautiful,” one woman said when she saw the stone.

Graves, who was raised on Austin’s east side, began his boxing career in the old Shaw Gym and went on to become one of the most decorated amateur fighters in history.

At the time, he was considered one of the top 10 boxers in the world and was the second-ranked featherweight boxer behind Willie Pep in 1946.

Graves lived in Austin nearly all his life, and died Nov. 15, 2005, at Good Samaritan Center in Albert Lea. He 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 was lying in an unmarked grave.

That all changed Saturday when Graves’ new black headstone was unveiled.

“It’s a shame we didn’t have something until now,” Stiehm said.

Without a grave marker, Stiehm and others called for donations to raise the funds to honor Graves.

One of the first people to call for a grave marker was Jake Wegner, President of the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame.

Wegner met Graves when he was writing an article on the boxer, and the two quickly became friends. Wegner frequently visited Graves, and after his death came to Austin to see his grave. But Wegner was unable to find the grave because it wasn’t marked.

Wegner described Graves as a giving man. One story Wegner shared was that Graves gave one of his sisters a $100 bill when she asked for money to buy a candy bar.

Graves had a knack for making people feel comfortable and letting them get close to him, Wegner said. This was a skill he utilized in the ring in leading up to a knockout.

“He was one of the all-time greats — not just in Minnesota,” Wegner said.

Gene Novak, another person who pushed to get Graves a marker, described the boxer as a person who always stayed true to his roots and friends on Austin’s east side.

Novak told the story of being part of a boxing club with Graves. But even when Graves went on to be a boxing star, Novak said he always had time for the people of Austin.

“Jackie Graves had a big heart, and was always good to everybody,” Novak said.

Jackie’s sister, Adams resident Donna Mullenbach, was on hand to see her brother’s grave marker.

“It’s really amazing,” she said.

Mullenbach was the second youngest and is the only surviving member of the 14 Graves children. She was 15 years younger than Graves, and described her brother as someone who was always good to others.

Even though she recalled seeing her brother many times through the years at family picnics, she said she only saw him box once.

“He knocked the guy out in the first round and that was it,” she said.

—Adam Harringa contributed to this report.

Mower County

In Your Community: Wolfe siblings get together to celebrate milestones

Mower County

In Your Community: 2024 Music Hall of Fame inductees honored


Canadian wildfire smoke chokes Upper Midwest for second straight year

Mower County

Archaeology in Mower County: Beyond the quarry

Mower County

Ikes fundraiser Wednesday night


Rochester Public Schools move to formalize procedure for helping transgender kids


Psychosis care model gives new hope to young patients


Proposed Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment draws rival crowds to Capitol for crucial votes

Austin Packers

APS Board gets update on plan to add boys volleyball

Mower County

Legislature prepares to go down to the wire as Minnesota session wraps up

Mower County

Skilled Nursing Care Week: Nurses thrive with in a family atmosphere

Mower County

Public invited to walk for mental health


Riverland graduation: stories of hope and resilience

Blooming Prairie

To be celebrated: Zumbro Education District holds Activity Day for special education students


Minnesota readies for its flag switch as old banner comes down

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions: April 29 to May 6


Bob Ross’ legacy lives on in new ‘The Joy of Painting’ series


Judge directs Michael Cohen to keep quiet about Trump ahead of his hush money trial testimony


Prepare for another summer of air quality alerts, but less than 2023

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

Mower County

St. Mark’s to host seminar on downsizing

Mower County

31st annual Stamp Out Hunger drive this Saturday


Riverland Music student qualifies for national competition

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

18-year-old from Lyle charged with 15 felonies, 14 related to child pornography