Dolores O. Graff, age 88, of McCook, NE passed away at Hillcrest Nursing Home on November 21, 2020.
Dolores Margaret Orten was born in a farmhouse between Beardsley, Kansas and McDonald, Kansas to Charles and Cora (Haller) Orten on July 24, 1932. She was their sixth daughter and eighth child. She grew up on the Orten farm and attended country school through the 8th grade. She attended Girls Catholic High School in Hays, Kansas, for two years, and then transferred to St. Scholastica Academy in Cañon City, Colorado, graduating with the class of 1950. She then attended Marymount School of Nursing, graduating in 1953 with a degree in nursing. She passed her nursing exam and received her license as a registered nurse in Kansas in 1953. After graduation, she worked at St. Joseph Hospital in Atwood, Kansas, where she met and married Delbert Thomas in 1954. Dolores and Del were married in a double wedding ceremony with Duane Orten and Delores Schroeder on August 18, 1954. They lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a year, moved to Colorado, then moved to the San Francisco Bay area in California where Del worked as an electrician and Dolores worked at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California. They moved back to Kansas and the Orten farm in 1958. Del was injured in a truck collision in 1959 and died a few months later in 1960. They had been blessed with four children - two girls, Delrae and Becky, both born in California, and two boys, Michael and Scott, both born in Kansas. Dolores and her children moved to McCook, Nebraska, in May 1960, where Dolores worked at St. Catherine’s Hospital and the children attended St. Patrick Elementary School. In 1966, she met Peter Graff, who had lost his wife to cancer. Pete also had four children - Diane, Susan, Mark and Todd. Dolores and Pete were married October 15, 1966, with all eight children in the wedding party. Diane, the oldest daughter, was the maid of honor and Susan, Delrae and Becky were junior bridesmaids. Pete’s brother, Leo, was his best man; Mike, Mark and Scott were groomsmen; and Todd, the youngest of the eight, was the ring bearer. Dolores and Pete had three more children - Chad, Mary Christine (Christi) and Jon.
Dolores was inspired by her love for family, church, community service and travel. She always said “your children are your treasure,” and she believed and lived this faithfully. She made trips to Europe and all around the U.S. to attend conferences, visit family, and discover new places. She loved to visit her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and attended as many baptisms, first communions, confirmations and graduations as possible. She was a long-time parishioner of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, frequently singing at Sunday mass and bicycling to daily mass. She had at least one of her 11 children enrolled in St. Patrick Elementary School for 29 straight years.
In 1992, she received the Cor Christi (Heart of Christ) Award from Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska for her lifelong service work. She was an active member of her community, serving two terms on the McCook School Board; creating McCook’s recycling program, for which she received the McCook Chamber’s Community Builder Award; teaching natural family planning and serving as a nursing consultant; and volunteering frequently for such organizations as Meals-on-Wheels and the Red Cross blood mobile. She enjoyed learning new things, sometimes taking classes at the college, and liked to put her hands to use gardening, trying arts and crafts, writing letters, and cooking. Amazingly, she did this while raising 11 children and contributing actively to the lives of her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She lives on as an inspiration and example to many, and she loved to introduce and connect people to one another for the betterment of all, using her tremendous gift of memory to remember everyone’s name and family history. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her name and given to St. Patrick Elementary School.
She is survived by her 11 children and spouses, Diane (Dan) Yenny of Grand Island, Susan (Tom) Deaver of Brady, Mike (Merriul) Thomas of McCook, Mark (Linda) Graff of McCook, Delrae Hirschman of Lincoln, Becky Thomas (Larry Todd) of Meeteetse, Wyoming, Scott (Jill) Thomas of Forest Lake, Minnesota, Todd Graff (Laurie Ziliak) of Winona, Minnesota, Chad Graff (Joann Falkenburg) of Oakland, California, Christi Graff (John Cashman) of Clarendon Hills, Illinois, and Jon Graff (Ronda) of McCook; 33 grandchildren, Brady (Kathy) Skiles, Luke (Becky), Jake (Jena) and Ben (Brittany) Deaver, Tristan Thomas, Jayme (Brad Martin), Jade and Jared (Sadey) Muehlenkamp, Wesley (Allison) and Gabrielle Thomas (Manguen Cho), Michaela and John (Kristy) Hirschman, Maureen (Buster Cunningham) Todd and Meagan (Tim) O’Mahony, Isaac, Jesse, Nathan, Samuel, Sophia and Hannah Graff, Amanda, Tyler, Julia, Haley and Allison Cashman, Anna, Alex, Andrew, Erik, Ethan, Emma and Eli Graff; 30 great-grandchildren; one sister, Janice (“Joni”) Brown of Stockton, California; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and a host of friends.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dolores O. Graff, please visit our floral store.