In Tribute: Family: Practical joker took God seriously

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Sterling Graham worked hard as a farmer, a hospital maintenance supervisor, and to never lose a practical joke battle.

But Graham’s greatest work, his children said, was trying to be the best Christian, father and grandfather he could be.

Graham died Oct. 9 at Parmer County Community Hospital in Friona, where he had worked since 1986 until his health wouldn’t let him anymore.

“Work was his hobby,” said his son, Ky Graham of Friona. “Just about anybody would tell you that. If he wasn’t at the hospital working, he was on the farm working.

“I’m not lazy by any stretch, but I don’t know if I have the same drive for work that he did. I don’t know if anybody does, to tell you the truth.”

Ky and Sterling weren’t just father and son most years; they were also coworkers, as both farmed. That was before Ky went on to his second career goal, to be a basketball coach.

That meant he needed more than his business degree from Lubbock Christian University. His father gave him just enough of a push to get his 36 remaining credit hours for teaching requirements.

“He didn’t come up to me and say, ‘Hey Ky, you should go back to school and be a coach,’” said Ky Graham, who now coaches basketball in Friona. “But farming was tough, and it was hard to make a living with kids. He knew it was a dream of mine. When I told him what I was going to do, he was very encouraging and said go for it.”

When Graham became a grandfather, daughter Gail Dement said his schedule was full of work, but even more full of school events with his grandchildren.

“The most important thing, as far as he was concerned,” Dement said, “was living a Christian life, hard work and family. He always took (time) off for family.”

Dement said her father loved to fish and hunt, and the family took annual trips to Red River because he thought it was a fantasy world.

He was also always on the hunt for a good practical joke. She recalled one family member who called him at 10 a.m. one day and said he was coming to visit, so have the house ready. When the relative didn’t show up, Sterling waited until he got up at 4 a.m. the next day for farming, then called the relative and said, “I’m still waiting.”

People counted on his jokes, just like they counted on him to clock in for every shift. Ky Graham said his father worked as much as he could at the hospital, even after his renal sarcoma became inoperable.

His biggest example, though, wasn’t reflected in the hours he logged.

“His Christian life was an example to me,” Ky Graham said. “I never heard him say a cuss word, never in his life.

“He strived to be like Christ. He was far from it, but he was always striving for that.”

In Tribute is a regular feature. To suggest an honoree, contact CNJ Managing Editor Rick White at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
rwhite@cnjonline.com