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Walter R. Graffin

June 6, 1936 - March 3, 2024
Racine, WI

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Life Story / Obituary


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Walter R. Graffin, age 87, died peacefully on March 3, 2024, at All Saints Hospital in Racine. He was a beloved father, grandfather, and life partner, born to Margaret (Koch) Gray on June 6, 1936, in Milwaukee. An only child, Walt was raised by his mother and grandmother Margaret Koch (nee Strack) and was the stepson of Henry Gray. He attended Milwaukee public schools graduating as valedictorian and president of the 1954 class of North Division High School. He furthered his education receiving his BS, MA, and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Walt worked various jobs in his youth such as a golf caddy and a laborer at Miller Brewery’s loading dock, where he worked summers to earn his tuition, room, and board at UW-Madison. He taught at Northwestern University in Chicago 1965-68 before beginning his long and distinguished career as a professor of English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside from 1968 to 2010. He served multiple terms as Chair of the English Department.

Walt is survived by his sons Grant (Lisa) Graffin of Los Angeles, CA and Greg (Allison) Graffin of Montour Falls, NY. Also survived by his love and life partner of 46 years, Julie Anastasio. He was the proud Papa of Graham Graffin (Melikt Mengiste), Ella Graffin (Victor Zetterberg) and Stanley Graffin. Further survived by great grandchildren Eliana and Amanuel.

He was preceded in death by his parents, former wife and mother of his children, Marcella Graffin, and many friends including Patrick McGuire, Don Kummings, and Alan Goldsmith.

Walt left a message for his friends, especially Anna, Hugh and all the McGuires, Dean and Christine, the Martin family and many others including his colleagues and his second family the Anastasios.

“Thanks for making my life so much fun and so satisfying.”

He inspired, in his family and others, the true joys of life: reading, music, theater, biking, basketball, baseball, football, tennis, good meals, sweet rolls and frozen custard. But most of all, the enjoyment of each other’s company.

A gathering to celebrate the life of Walter Graffin is expected to be held in late summer. Details will be announced later.

Donations in Walt’s memory may be made to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Foundation, P.O. Box 2000, Kenosha, WI 53141-2000 or to the charity of your choice.

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