Henry Robert Graham, our beloved and brave father and grandfather, has died at the age of 96. He was a World War II hero, retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, and a Chicago businessman and newspaper columnist. He was a gifted athlete who played a mean game of tennis well into his 80s.
He and his wife, Anne, owned the successful Small Fry children’s clothing store in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood for 48 years. Though Lincolnwood was their home, they were global travelers and spent part of every year in sunny Longboat Key, Florida.
Born in Vienna in 1923, Henry Graham helped his parents escape Austria in 1939 after Germany annexed their homeland shortly before the start of World War II.
A natural-born athlete who started kicking soccer balls at age 2, Henry’s athletic talents helped him flee Vienna after several close calls with the Nazis. As a teenager, he played soccer for Austria’s National Junior Team. So, Henry arranged visas for himself and for his parents, under the pretext that they were going to watch him play soccer. His parents’ visa came through first, and he sent them to England while he waited alone for his visa to arrive. It finally came two weeks later, and Henry forged his father’s signature on the document and quickly escaped to England.
About a year later, he and his parents emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago. In the spring of 1941, Henry enlisted in the U.S. Army, and in 1943, he shipped out for Europe. There, he fought in D-Day plus one, the Battle of the Bulge, and other tough battles. Though he never bragged about this, he was awarded numerous medals for courage and leadership, including the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Infantry Combat Badge, and the French Croix de Guerre.
Following the war, he returned home, where he trained at the Radio Institute of Chicago to become an engineer. He met smart, beautiful Anne Russell while applying for a job at NBC in Chicago in 1949. She was working as a receptionist, and Henry told her he would buy her lunch if he got the job – which he did. They married in June 1950, launching a loving partnership that lasted nearly 70 years.
Together, they opened Small Fry, which featured clothes imported from Europe. Henry also wrote a popular and sometimes controversial community newspaper column, called “One Man’s Opinion.” And he was an expert tennis player who played well beyond his 80th birthday – beating many younger, often-surprised opponents.
The “colonel,” as he was known, is survived by his family, who dearly loved and admired him. They include his wife, Anne Russell Graham; sons Timothy John Graham and James Andrew Graham; daughter Linda Graham Caleca; grandchildren Zachary, Claire and Paul Graham; Christian and Nicole Graham; and James and Anne Elizabeth Caleca. He also is survived by daughters-in-law Suzanne and Nancy Graham, son-in-law Victor Caleca, and Nicole Graham’s fiancé, Ross Ragsdale. Survivors also include nephews John Russell and Jeff Russell, niece Julie Hale, a cousin, Robert Graham, and their spouses and children.
Services will be private. To honor Henry’s memory, please consider giving to your favorite charity.