UUs celebrate the life and legacy of John Graves

By Phil Swearngin and Karen LeCour
Special to The PREVIEW
The Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship recently celebrated the life and legacy of its music director of 20 years, the late Professor John Graves.
The annual Coffee House was a tradition begun by Graves — a time for music, stories, jokes and general merriment. It is a time for the fellowship to share their talents through music, poetry and dance and is always one of the most well attended events of the year. The Coffee House is held every year near John’s birthday. This year, John would have turned 90.
Graves lived a life few of us could even dream of living. He rubbed shoulders with such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, Katharine Hepburn, Nureyev, Rosemary Clooney, Dave Brubeck, George and Gracie Allen, Jack Palance, George Burns, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante and a host of others. The professor traveled extensively throughout the world, played piano with some of the greats, produced movies, worked at NBC on several series, including “I Dream of Jeannie,” taught broadcasting and film at the University of Central Missouri and was a puppet, a pauper, a poet, a pirate, a pawn and a king. As a child prodigy, he played piano for Judy Garland and John Wayne at their private parties. He had over 35 years of experience in music, broadcasting, film and teaching.
The Coffee House is lovingly emceed each year by Phil Swearngin with help from DC Duncan. Swearngin was a former student of Graves’ and Graves left a lasting impression on Swearngin; they stayed close for nearly 30 years. Swearngin would visit his mentor in the mountains of Pagosa Springs every year since Graves retired here in 1996.
Duncan was part of Rio Jazz and John Graves and Friends. Both Duncan and Graves were amazing jazz musicians and played together for over 15 years.

This story was posted on March 1, 2018.