Central Davie alumni to honor Dorothy Graham

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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By Gracie Hauser

For the Enterprise

Gathering people together is something Dorothy Graham has done for a long time.

From funerals to reunions to weddings to church meals, she has organized events for people local and distant.

For 62 years, Mrs. Graham worked in funeral service in Davie County. In the 1960s, funeral service was a male dominated industry, so she was a trailblazer, becoming the first woman in Davie to have a funeral director’s license in 1957 and in 1997 the first woman to own a funeral home in Davie County.

She organized services for people to gather and support each other in times of grief. Holding leadership positions in the local, state, and national Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, she brought people together for monthly local meetings and annual state and national conventions.

She attended high school before schools were integrated and graduated from Davie County Training School in 1953. In later years, the school became Central Davie High School. Her classmates expected her, as valedictorian, to gather everyone for reunions, which she did. The first reunion was held 25 years after the class of  ‘53 graduated, and it wasn’t long before graduates from other years became interested.

“I received suggestions from alumni to broaden the scope of the reunions to include the whole school,” Mrs. Graham said.

To her best recollection, the first school-wide reunion was held in 1988. The reunion has been held annually for all graduates since then. A reunion committee was formed that held meetings at the funeral home. Mrs. Graham served as treasurer for 34 years, collecting registration at the funeral home for the annual reunion, which was held at Village Inn Conference Center in Clemmons for many years.

Mrs. Graham often reflects on her high school years and wrote a poem about students gathering together at the flagpole. When students didn’t finish a conversation between classes, or just wanted to hang out together, they would say, “Meet me at the flagpole after school.”

Her poem is displayed alongside a flagpole and monument on the grounds of Central Davie Academy on Campbell Road, the former location of Davie County Training/Central Davie High School.

Mrs. Graham also gathered people together for meals after church service and served for 39 years as kitchen coordinator and treasurer at Clement Grove Church of God, 7th Day.

She was a volunteer for the senior center and delivered Meals on Wheels for 21 years until her vision declined.

Before retiring in 2019, she participated with many local organizations, including Davie United Way, Davie Business Women Association, Davie Leadership, Piedmont- Triad Leadership, Relay For Life, Care Net, and Davie Domestic Violence.

She was a member of the Mocksville Rotary Club (Paul Harris Fellow), Davie County Department of Social Service board member for three terms, Davie Chamber of Commerce board member, and Healthy Carolinians board member. She received the Woman of the Year award in 2007 by Davie Business Women, awards by the NAACP, and Graham Funeral Home received the Business of the Year award in 2017.

She was a notary, insurance agent, and a Disaster Relief and Shelter Coordinator through the American Red Cross.

Her reputation as being reliable, efficient, and showing attention to detail became known in the community, and several couples booked Mrs. Graham as their wedding planner- another way she organized community gatherings.

She was also an excellent seamstress and sewed dresses for weddings, including creating her daughter’s gown.

For Mrs. Graham’s 70th birthday in 2006, her daughters started a scholarship fund in her honor at the Davie Community Foundation. The Dorothy Rucker Graham Scholarship is permanently endowed and is given yearly to a graduating senior at Davie High who plans to further their education.

While active in Davie Leadership Alumni, the members were asked to present ideas that would help the people of Davie County. Dorothy Graham and Kent Matthewson presented the idea of building a community college in Davie. Their idea was well received by county officials and in 1994, Davidson Community College opened a branch in Davie County.

In 2021 Mrs. Graham received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest award given by the governor to a North Carolinian for service to the community and state.

Many people know Mrs. Graham as “the funeral home lady,” but to her grandchildren, she is “Momma Dot.” Her family plays an important role in her life.

“I would not have been able to make an impact without God’s blessing to help others. I also thank my husband Nelson and my family for their support.”

The Davie County Training School/Central Davie High School Reunion will be held on Saturday, June 22 in Clemmons at the Village Inn. The group will honor Mrs. Graham’s impact upon the community.

Gracie Hauser, granddaughter of Mrs. Graham, is a student at Davie County Early College High School and an intern at the Davie County Enterprise Record.