Shirley Carole (Vesper) Graves

January 10, 1935 ~ October 28, 2018 (age 83)

Shirley Carole (Vesper) Graves, aged 83, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, at Generations Care Center in Lincoln, Ill., after a two-year battle with ALS (Lou Gerhrig’s Disease). Shirley was born Jan. 10, 1935, in rural Staunton, Ill., the daughter of William F. and Beatrice I. (Hastings) Vesper.

              After graduating from Staunton High School in 1952, Shirley moved to Denver, Colorado, where she met and married her husband of 61 years, Fred D. Graves. They later moved back to Illinois and made their home in Staunton to raise their family. In addition to raising her four children, Shirley worked as an administrator for the State of Illinois for nearly 30 years.

              Family was Shirley’s passion and delight. Every Sunday evening for 36 years (until she was hospitalized last year), she hosted family dinners at home for her four kids and their families, which grew to include the grandchildren and their spouses and children. Her grandson, Jackson Wilson, describes the experience best:

              “My family is full of walking angels, and my Grandma Shirley was far from an exception. She would always greet us with a great big beaming smile on her face every time we walked into her house on Sunday night. She fed us until our stomachs burst. She would always listen to what everyone had to say, regardless of what the conversation was about. …There was never a time in my life in which Grandma was unable to lift my spirits with her happiness and joy that was in her heart.”

After retirement, Shirley was able to travel the world with Fred and other family members. She visited Australia, Thailand, Egypt, Italy, Panama and Vietnam, among other places, along with many Caribbean islands. 

Shirley is survived by her husband, Fred; two daughters, Carla Coury of New Orleans, and Diane (Craig) Wilson of Litchfield; two sons, Dale (Debbie) Graves of Litchfield and Darren (fiancé Lisa Costin) of Staunton; 11 grandchildren, Bethany (Eric) Paulsen of New Orleans, Ben (Megan) Culp of Baton Rouge, La., Nathan (Pamela) Culp of Wilmington, N.C., Gregory Culp of Augusta, Ga., Danny Kovaly (and Ann) of Alhambra, Elizabeth (Matt) Willis of St. Louis, Miranda (Shaun) Martin of St. Louis, Dalton Graves of Staunton, Grace Graves of Staunton, Jackson Wilson of Litchfield, and Cooper Wilson of Litchfield; and 7 great-grandchildren, Beau Willis, Emmet Paulsen, Julia Culp, Wesley Culp, Owen Culp, Clayton Culp, and Baby Martin (due any day). She is also survived by one brother, Bill Vesper of Staunton, and leaves behind numerous nieces and nephews. 

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by three brothers, a sister, and a son-in-law.

Shirley requested a private burial and funeral. The family wishes to thank all those who cared for her during her illness. ALS is a bitch. Memorials may be made to the Steve Gleason Initiative Foundation at

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