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Kingsley F Graham, 86, died at home in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, January 17, 2024. Fiercely independent to the end, he had just driven 300 miles each way to visit family in Michigan for Christmas. Kingsley “King" was born in Flint, Michigan June 30, 1937. His parents, Dr. Bernard J. Graham and Bessie Lignian Graham, lived in Alma. Although Barney Graham delivered hundreds of babies during his career, he wanted his medical school friend in Flint to deliver his children. Three years later, Bessie and Barney returned to Flint for the birth of Kingsley’s sister, Patricia Graham Harris. Pat preceded him in death in 2014.
Barney Graham was drafted as a surgeon by the US Navy during World War 2, and the entire family moved to a beach house near Camp Pendleton, California for a year. After Barney was sent to the South Pacific, Bessie and the children returned to Alma. When the war was over, Barney Graham bought a summer cottage on Black Lake, Michigan, even though they didn’t yet own a house. Kingsley’s childhood was spent fly fishing, boating, bird hunting, snow and water skiing at Black Lake and around Alma, Michigan.
Kingsley attended Alma public schools, making a lifelong friend in Ross Smith. The crowded public schools, and the fact Kingsley occasionally corrected his math and science teachers, led his parents to enroll Kingsley in the Cranbrook School for Boys in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. At Cranbrook, Kingsley found his people: other teenagers also interested in science and technology. While many of them were legendary, Charles “Blake” Arnold became a lifelong friend. They both joined the amateur radio club and became “ham” radio operators. After several trips to the Graham cottage, Blake’s parents ended up also buying a summer cottage on Black Lake, down the beach from the Grahams’s. Kingsley and Blake, who continued to call each other “Charlie”, kept in touch during the winter months with a weekly ham radio chat between Murrysville and Saline, Michigan. Kingsley’s strong ham radio signal meant that occasionally their conversations were picked up by the PA system at Mother of Sorrows Church during mass.
Kingsley attended the University of Michigan College of Engineering on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined Triangle Fraternity. One Labor Day weekend, driving home with his parents after closing the cottage, they stopped to fill the car with gas. Kingsley noticed an early AquaLung scuba diving system for sale at an end-of-summer clearance price. Over his father’s objections, Kingsley bought it. Back in Ann Arbor, Kingsley and Blake drove out to a nearby lake and took turns scuba diving in their street clothes. Kingsley was hooked. After earning his Masters' degree at Michigan, Kingsley was stationed at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, outside San Francisco, California, where he taught at the Nuclear Power school. Trips to the nearby Napa Valley hooked Kingsley on Cabernet Sauvignon; preferably served in a plastic tumbler from ice-cold economy sized bottle.
At the Officer’s Club, he met a lovely Navy nurse. Not only was Julia “Julie” Foster born in Ann Arbor, her father was also a physician. Barney Foster had known Barney Graham in medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Kingsley and Julie were married in Topeka, Kansas, and one year later had a daughter, Heather. The small family returned to Ann Arbor, where Kingsley began work on his PhD in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Michigan. In 1970, Kingsley won the Mark Mills award from the American Nuclear Society with his PhD dissertation for the “student author who submits the best original technical paper contributing to the advancement of science and engineering related to the atomic nucleus."
Kingsley accepted a job at Westinghouse, and became one of the first to work at the beautiful new Nuclear Energy Center in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Kingsley had a long and varied career as a nuclear engineer at Westinghouse, working worldwide on nuclear energy reactors earning a number of patents. Many trips to the Czech Republic led to his affection for Budějovický Budvar beer; the ancestor of the US Budweiser beer.
Kingsley continued his many hobbies, building and flying model airplanes and model boats, hiking, skiing, canoeing, boating, scuba diving, and ham radio. His father gave him the “B and B”, the 1966 mahogany Lyman boat, and Kingsley spend many hours maintaining its pristine condition. That boat made many trips to Lakes Huron and Superior for boating, scuba diving and camping, as well as many hours in Black Lake towing water skiers. To this day it is in pristine condition (other than an engine issue) including all the original canvas.
Kingsley and Julie separated in 1978, and later divorced. Due to Julie’s mental health issues, Kingsley was the sole parent to Heather, with long-distance help from Bessie. Kingsley taught Heather to downhill and cross-country ski, water ski, scuba dive and drive a stick shift. She did not, however, learn calculus.
Kingsley’s interest in scuba diving expanded, and he became a dive instructor as well as earning many certifications in ice diving, cave diving, photography, etc. Kingsley took scuba trips around the world: the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Mexico, Fiji, the Great Barrier Reef, the Solomon Islands (where his father had been stationed in WW2) and captured underwater video. He spent hours painstakingly editing his videos and setting them to rather eclectic musical choices. He has made well over 30 trips on the Aggressor Liveaboard dive boats.
He spent hours scuba diving in Black Lake, videotaping the ancient lake sturgeon that Black Lake is known for. Over the years he observed the invasive species in Black Lake, including the zebra mussels, which killed off the native shellfish. At least one year, he was able to video tape from underwater the release of the young sturgeon from the Black Lake sturgeon research hatchery.
Kingsley enjoyed life and his activities, and lived life exactly as he chose until the end. In retirement, his physical health improved, with regular swimming, hiking, cross country skiing, leaf raking and scuba diving. In his 70s, two knee replacements improved his hiking and cross country skiing, but meant he could no longer slalom water ski; he had to use both water skis into his early 80s.
Kingsley is survived by his daughter, Heather Graham Lewis of Ann Arbor, Michigan, grandchildren John Graham Lewis of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Elsie Graham Lewis of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and son-in-law Martin P. Lewis. The family will intern his cremains adjacent to his parents at Riverside Cemetery in Alma Michigan. A memorial event will be held in the summer at Black Lake.
For online condolences, please visit www.hartfuneralhomeinc.com.