American Patriotic 10
Official Obituary of

Emil Joseph Graveman

June 10, 1923 ~ January 10, 2024 (age 100) 100 Years Old

Emil Graveman Obituary

Emil Joseph Graveman serenaded St. Peter with his accordion and polkaed through the gates of heaven on January 10th, 2024, exactly 100 years and 7 months from the day he was born.  He was embraced by his bride of 70 years, Mary Meaghi Graveman (2016) and his daughter Donna Graveman (2003).  

Joe will be engraved in the hearts and minds of his loving family, son, Dan Graveman and his wife Becci of Rohnert Park, daughter, Diane Barrows and her husband Reuben of Laguna Hills,  and his 7 grandchildren, his 8 great-grandchildren and his 2 great-great grandchildren.

“Joe” as he was known, was born in Cullman, Alabama to John Henry Graveman and Margaret Anne Veigl on June 10, 1923.  He was the first

8  children. He was preceded in death by twin brothers who died on his 6th birthday 24 hours after their birth, his parents, his sisters, Catherine and Josephine and his brothers John and Anthony.  Edward, his remaining brother lives in Cullman and is nearing 99 years of age.

Joe’s childhood was spent in Alabama.  He often recounted, how, during the depression, his parents lost their house in Birmingham and they eventually ended up in Cullman.  The family struggled and often had only what was grown in the garden or hunted in the countryside for its meals.

Joe’s dad worked in the fields and his mom laundered clothing in order to feed the family. After completing 8th grade, Joe, as the oldest child, needed to work to help support his younger siblings.  He was employed by his uncle who owned “Graveman’s Dairy”.  This meant he had to be up by 2:00 or 3:00 every morning to help with milking the cows, loading the milk and transporting it.  He spoke of how cold and dark it was, and how he never felt like he’d had enough sleep or food.  He would help around St. Bernard’s College and Abbey as well.  Because the family was so poor, one of the brothers at the Abbey would hand him coins from the collection box after mass on some Sundays.

Joe had a special job with one of the monks, Brother Joseph Zoetl.  Brother Joseph created 125 miniature reproductions of iconic religious structures placed along a forested trail, known as Ave Marie Grotto. Joe helped the monk and remembered that Brother Joseph used broken plates, costume jewelry, marbles and even seashells to create his amazing reproductions of places like Lourdes and Rome. The Ava Maria Grotto was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Although he was deferred from military service because of the need to support the family, he enlisted in World War II after seeing so many of his friends leaving.  His military journey brought him to various Army/Airforce bases across the states. He often teased the other inductee’s about having to get up so early for basic training – since for him, it was a luxury to sleep in what was “late” for him.  And, while others complained about the commissary food, he gained weight.  While in the military Joe earned a sharp shooter certificate, became a heavy equipment operator and eventually was trained as a professional meat cutter.  This last occupation required attending special programs and actually learning to draw the anatomies of various animals.  This skill helped him out in later days with discussing health decisions with his doctors – he could tell them he knew exactly what organs they were talking about and what they did and where they were located.

Joe was actually pulled out of line while waiting to board planes for overseas deployment 3 times. He eventually ended up at Hamilton Airforce Base in Novato where besides doing his regular job he worked at night in San Francisco scraping barnacles from the bottoms of boats to earn extra money.  

It was not all work though. He and his friends, when given passes, would drive to Petaluma where some pretty crazy incidents occurred. (Ask a family member about the “palm tree” affair).   It was in Petaluma that he met the love of his life, Mary (Meaghi).  They passed one another coming out of the soda fountain in the Tyler building on the corner of Washington Street and Petaluma Boulevard North.  Mary worked at Volpi’s market, owned by one of her relatives (now Volpi’s Restaurant).   The relationship had a challenging beginning.  Mary’s twin brother, Mario, a Marine, had been killed on Palau Island 4 months earlier and Mary’s dad would not allow anyone in uniform into the house. After some covert meetings in the park, Joe began bringing meat and bacon to Mary to give the family. Since her parents were not yet citizens they were considered “alien” and certain items were hard to come by.  Eventually, after the bribery, Joe met his future father-in-law, who remarkably, had the same name. Emilio Giuseppe and Emil Joseph, soon became close, and considered one another like father and son. Looking back on his life, Joe believed that he had been pulled out of those three airplanes boarding lines in order to take care of his future wife after the death of her twin brother.

Joe and Mary married on April 21, 1946.  Their first child, Diane was born in 1950.  She was joined 5 years later by twins, Daniel and Donna, which was a total surprise to both father and mother and required a quick shopping trip for an additional bassinette as well as coming up with another name!

For many years Joe worked in Petaluma as a professional meat cutter. He created and managed the meat market at South City Market. He also worked at Safeway before it was destroyed by fire.  His children remember their parents making butter out of the cream the employees took home because it could not be resold.  However, most people remember him from Studdert’s Meat Market with the saw-dusted floor. Joe was known for gifting hotdogs to kids and entertaining their parents with funny stories while they shopped.

While he worked in this profession, Joe was also building the beginnings of what would become his own business, D&J Autobody shop. He started repairing car engines in the basement of the family home. He mastered the art of restoring car bodies and painting them as well.  His business grew and he opened a workshop on Petaluma Boulevard North where it remained for years.

Joe was always known for his ability to invent what was needed on the spot. He would take whatever material he had at hand and create a new tool, gadget or car part.  Although some adapted parts were comical, they lasted for years, like the radiator hose which replaced water pipes under his kitchen sink. His family called him “MacGyver”.

Although cars, driving cars, fixing cars, buying cars, selling cars, painting cars etc., were his passion, he continued to work as a meat cutter on and off well into his 80’s.  He enjoyed socializing with the customers and always had a good joke ready.  He eventually closed D&J, but continued to work on cars for family and friends into his 90’s.

Besides his passion for family and cars, Joe loved to travel. He and Mary drove over 200,000 miles in their motorhomes visiting many of the states and Canada over the years.  They also drove the Alcan Highway twice to visit their daughter Donna who was living in Alaska. 

At home, and when on the road, a precious item was always nearby, his button accordion.  Joe loved to play and sing and entertained at various events, including the accordion festivals in Canada. He was in several commercials, one for Calistoga Water in which he played the accordion and sang.  He was proud of his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card!

He was born to sing, play and tell jokes.

Making others smile was his calling.

Music was his soul.

He will forever live in the hearts of his family and friends, and, he will continue to make them smile every time they see him dancing across their memories.

A Celebration of Life will be held on

March 9, 2024

10:30 am

Parent-Sorensen Mortuary Chapel

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Celebration of Life
March 9, 2024

10:30 AM
Parent-Sorensen Mortuary & Crematory
850 Keokuk Street
Petaluma, CA 94952


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