On June 3, 1955, our Heavenly Father welcomed Paul Albert Graham Jr. into this world. He gave breath to this tender soul, whose purpose would be to indelibly and positively impact many people over the course of his earthly existence. Paul’s very essence exuded a loving appreciation for the gift of life, the natural beauty around him, and the simple pleasures of daily living.
Framing and giving meaning to his activities, Paul’s spiritual life and Christian faith took root early on. He was baptized at his maternal Grandma Johnson’s church at age 4 or 5, understanding that he was to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ. As a young child, Paul’s maternal grandmother taught Paul to pray, which was a habit he continued throughout his life. He and his beloved wife began each day in prayer together, and Paul ritually prayed twice a day with his 88-year-old mother, “The Queen.”
Paul had fond memories of growing up in southeast Kansas. Of note was his active, enduring 58-year relationship with best friend, Craig Michael, whom he met in the third grade. A football quarterback in high school and college, Paul continued to appreciate the sport as a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan. He maintained close ties with his classmates, excitedly anticipating returning home for the class of 1973 high school class reunions. Paul obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Baker University in 1977, as well as a Personal Training Certificate from the International Sports Science Association.
As a highly ethical and dedicated professional, Paul received much joy and personal satisfaction from his career choices as a Children’s Social Worker and a Personal Training Instructor. Paul had an uncanny ability to motivate others toward excellence, self-improvement, or personal goal achievement.
He was loved for his patience, charming personality, positivity, encouragement, warm hugs, and infectious smile, whether in professional settings, community work or personal relationships.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Paul’s world was enhanced by his marriage to the love of his life, Rondalyn Strother-Graham. In 1983, the young couple left the Midwest for a new life on the West Coast. Rondalyn described her life thereafter with Paul as, “35 glorious years in Hollywood, Calif., followed by our retirement in the Mojave Desert beginning in 2018. Paul told anyone willing to listen that he loved the desert!”
She added that Paul saw beauty in everything, reflected in things such as his awe of watching the daily nectar-gathering of a tiny hummingbird in their front yard oleander tree. He often remarked to Rondalyn, “We have a good life.” Rondalyn and Paul felt an instant attraction upon meeting each other. As his committed life partner, she considered Paul her protector, best friend, confidante, her everything. In terms of interests, Paul was an absolute sports fanatic.
He and his wife enjoyed regular travel, including yearly visits to the Midwest to visit family and friends. Their favorite travel destinations were Sedona, Ariz., and the Big Island of Hawaii. Paul frequently noted that the Aloha spirit lives forever, although Rondalyn believes that future trips to their favorite places will not have the same meaning and purpose apart from him. Paul and Rondalyn celebrated 40 years on Jan. 23, 2021, reaffirming their vows of “Until death do us part.”
On the beautiful autumn day of Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, Paul passed away suddenly in his Coachella Valley desert home. Having discussed this subject from time to time, Rondalyn praises God that He honored Paul’s desire to depart this world in peace and happiness, with no suffering.
Paul was preceded in death by his father, Paul A. Graham, Sr., his stepfather, Eugene Clounch, three brothers: Nathaniel M. Graham, Thurman D. Graham and William Rodney Graham.
He leaves to cherish his memory: wife Rondalyn Strother-Graham of Indio, Calif., mother, Naomi Clounch of Iola, sisters Dr. Teresa L. Clounch of Hays and Gena M. Clounch (Alan) of Iola; goddaughter, Brandi Artis (Brittany) of St. Louis, Mo.; a host of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and dear friends.
A Celebration of Life Service will be Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at Ward Chapel AME Church, Iola.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to a charity of your choice in memory of Paul A. Graham, Jr. A second Celebration of Life Service will be held in Indio, Calif., next month or in January. Please watch the social media of family members for details.