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Mary Graves, 72, of Springs

Mon, 06/17/2024 - 15:52
Georgette Bruenner

If Mary Kernell Graves, who, at the age of 72, died of an apparent heart attack at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital's emergency room Monday morning, liked you, you were lucky, if she loved you, you were blessed.

Born on May 25, 1952, in Mineola, Ms. Graves was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Michell Kernell, the third among six children the Kernells were to have, three girls and three boys. Sentenced by her mother, then a devotee of Bishop Fulton Sheen, to St. Peter of Alcantara Roman Catholic Church's elementary school in Port Washington, the Kernells' hometown, Ms. Graves bore throughout her life the emotional scar of having been summarily spanked bare-bottomed by a particularly sadistic nun in front of her fellow first graders for having given a pen to Joanie Powers, who only had a crayon. She also remembered being rebuked for having posited, when in third grade, that the world's continents looked as if they had at one time been connected. 

She was ever curious, and a tenacious student who refused anything less than an A on her return to college and post-graduate work later in life. She smacked her Suffolk Community College mathematics professor over the head with a rolled-up final exam for not having been given an A in his course, only to be reminded as the blow rained down that the class was "pass-fail."

A quick wit and a willingness to do any job with all her might -- parenting included -- served her well when it came to getting by in the world. At one time or another, she bagged groceries, administered pulmonary tests, helped manage a riding stable, worked in an ophthalmologist's office, worked in a lawyer's office,  served as an East Hampton Town Democratic committeewoman and door-knocker, and volunteered with the Springs Food Pantry, though her favorite wage-earning stint was as the registrar for Friends World, an alternative college founded by Quakers with far-flung centers  throughout the globe that for a time was based at Southampton College. Intrigued by these daring, idealistic young people who studied in Costa Rica, London, Jerusalem, Bangalore, Hangzhou, and Kyoto, Ms. Graves served as an upbeat grownup link to the home front. One of her former students, Adam Ma'anit, said her gift -- the greatest of all gifts, he thought -- was her ability to make people feel good about themselves.

She was not a martyr, though. You crossed her line at your peril. 

A liberal Democrat, her political instincts were keen. Surrounded by reporters in her family, her skeptical nature, and dogged bent when on the scent, would have made her the best of them. In spiritual matters, Ms. Graves was perhaps a scientific pantheist, worshipping at the temple of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. Predictably then, everything about life -- except for man's shameful inhumanity to man -- fascinated her and warranted her abiding devotion. The people closest to her could be thankful, very thankful, for that.

Ms. Graves is survived by her husband, Jack Graves of Springs; her children, Kathryn (Georgie) Menu of Springs and Johnna Norris; her stepchildren, Emily Alcroft and Cebra Graves, and nine grandchildren, Gideon, Maya, and Zora Graves, Jack and Max Alcroft, Ella and Charlie Menu, and Mary and Lucy Norris, as well as by her siblings, Kitty Stewart, Georgette Bruenner, Joseph Kernell, and John Kernell. She was predeceased by her parents and by a brother, James Kernell.

A gathering at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home on Pantigo Road in East Hampton will be held Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to noon. A burial service will follow at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton Village at 1 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Springs Food Pantry online at 

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