Nelson Montgomery Graves, Jr, 1926-2012,
Multiple Age-Group U. S. National Doubles Champion 
By Rob Dinerman

Dateline January 14th, 2012
--- has learned of the passing earlier this month of Nelson Graves Jr., 85, after a brief illness, in Orchard Park, just outside of Buffalo. A lifelong resident of Buffalo and a huge fan of the Buffalo Bills (he was part of the first group to purchase season tickets as the AFL was forming in the late 1950’s and remained a season-ticket holder for the rest of his life), Graves is best known in squash circles for a partnership with his Buffalo contemporary (born just two weeks apart) Bill Dann that was truly remarkable both for the  age-group competition results they achieved (four Canadian and three U. S. National Doubles titles) and even more so for its longevity --- the partnership lasted for more than FOUR DECADES and they made history of a sort when they played in both the inaugural doubles invitational event hosted by their “home” Buffalo Tennis & Squash Club in 1956 AND in the golden-anniversary edition of the tournament in December 2005!

  Theirs was a classic squash-doubles partnership, with Dann’s right-wall power game opening up the court and providing Graves with shot-making opportunities to put the ball away. All of their practice sessions and tournament matches together enabled them to complement each other and mesh seamlessly to a degree rarely seen in doubles today (where players are constantly switching partners), making the whole admirably and substantially greater than the sum of its parts; indeed this quality doubtless frequently constituted the margin of victory in a number of their close matches. And there were plenty of victories, most notably in the Canadian 40’s Championship in 1967, the Canadian and U. S. 50’s in 1978, the U.S. 60’s in 1987, the Canadian 60’s in 1988, the Canadian 70’s in 1997 and the U. S. 70’s in 1997--- an especially gratifying triumph for occurring on their own turf in Buffalo in front of their enthusiastically cheering friends, family and club members, who turned out in force to support these popular protagonists --- and 1999. Seven-time Buffalo city A Doubles champs during their younger days, they played in their club’s annual invitational three dozen times, including, as noted, as late as December 2005, a year almost to the day prior to Dann’s death.

   On the first day after graduating from the Phillips Exeter Academy (where he was a star hockey player) in June 1944, Graves enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific on a U.S. submarine, ending up in Japan after it surrendered. He graduated in 1950 from Dartmouth, where he played varsity hockey under legendary coach Eddie Jeremiah. It was during the early 1950’s that, at the suggestion of Al Malloy, the pro at Buffalo Tennis & Squash at the time and later the coach at Penn and USSRA Hall Of Fame inductee, Graves and his childhood friend and Dartmouth classmate Dann began their squash doubles partnership, which extended all the way to that 50th annual Buffalo Invitational, where in their last tournament together (and five years after being inducted together into the Buffalo Squash Racquets Association’s Hall Of Fame in 2000), they advanced all the way to the 70’s final, even though they were each just weeks from their 80th birthdays by then.

   Even into his 80’s, Graves (who was made a member of the Jesters Club, a society of exemplary international sportsmen,  during the 1980’s) still played doubles tennis two or three times per week, and he made a special trip to his longtime club when the ISDA tour came to Buffalo in November 2010, scrambling up the stairs into the gallery with an alacrity that belied his years and his use of a cane and sharing a sharp, perceptive analysis of the play with those fortunate enough to be seated near him. He is survived by his wife of 65 years Germain (Gerrie) Kenefick Graves; sons Nelson III (like his father a varsity hockey player at Exeter and himself an active squash player for more than 30 years on three different continents) and Peter; a daughter, Germain (Ginx) Dudley Graves; and five grand-children. Graves’s other daughter, Maire (Midge) Graves Deverell, died in 2007.








Back To Main