Richard was an Englishman, born and bred, who revelled in his reputation as a rather eccentric Brit, with a quirky sense of humour and unbounded generosity to his friends.
In the later years of his life, after much worldwide travel during the course of it, he lived in East Lansing, Michigan, USA, with his American wife of 50 years, Penny.
On March 10th 2019, Richard Graham-Yooll passed away at Stoneleigh Residence in Lansing.
Richard may be remembered most by the East Lansing community as a man who contributed tirelessly to the welfare of the children of this state by co-founding of the Art for Charlie Foundation and the Children’s Palliative Care Coalition of Michigan. To many others, he was a true creative with a sharp wit, a keen intellect, and a playful sense of the absurd. (To get a sense of this, take a look at "Richard's Writing" page.
Richard was born in 1939 in Gosport, England when his country was in the midst of fighting World War Two. His mother, Betty, was working in a factory building the Spitfires which won the Battle of Britain and his father, Malcolm, served as Surgeon Commander in the British Royal Navy. After the war, Richard’s family moved to the Welsh town of Pembroke, where his father practised medicine for the newly-created National Health Service, a system which provided the universal medical care of which Richard was a lifelong and passionate advocate.
He was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, and Balliol College, Oxford, where he received his MA in English. Richard began his career with the international division of a major British insurance company, and later Lloyd's of London, spending several years in both the Far and Middle East, including Thailand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It was when in Thailand that Richard met Penny, a native of Boston, Massachusetts. They married in 1968, and had three children: Adam, Alison, and Abigail, whom they brought up in England. In 1989, the family moved to the United States, living in Florida, Boston and then North Carolina. Over these years, Richard set up an advertising business and became a writer of short stories and published a novel, inspired by his knowledge of both insurance and the Middle East, entitled "A Foreign Policy".
In 2010, Richard and Penny relocated to East Lansing in order to be closer to their daughter Abigail’s family. Shortly after, their nearly three-year old grandson, Charlie, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given a few months to live. (You can read more on Abigail's Journal.) It was in the aftermath of this dreadful diagnosis that Richard’s blend of intelligence, humanity and dynamism found its fullest expression. Richard co-founded the Art for Charlie Foundation, which, thanks to enormous community support and the generosity of hundreds of artists and local retailers, raised thousands of dollars to help support Michigan families who lost or had a seriously ill child.
In 2015, Richard then teamed up with several doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, social workers and bereaved parents to establish the Children’s Palliative Care Coalition of Michigan. As co-founder and lead administrator, Richard devoted the last few years of his life to the vital work of this coalition, working punishing hours on behalf of Michigan’s children and in memory of his much-loved grandson. In spite of his rapidly declining health, he was able to organize the coalition’s fourth annual conference, held at Michigan State University in November 2018, an event which brought together over 100 of the state’s most gifted professionals from the worlds of medicine, psychology and social work as well as families whose lives have been touched by their care. Even in his hospice bed, days before he passed away, Richard was hard at work planning the November 2019 conference.
Richard’s commitment to the well-being of Michigan’s sickest children is admirable and he will be long remembered with gratitude by his colleagues in the Children’s Palliative Care Coalition of Michigan. But he will also be cherished for so deeply loving his wife, children and grandchildren, for his wry sense of humor, his quick wit, his stoicism, his warmth as a host, his advocacy of humane causes, his depth of reading, his fabulous cooking, his knowledge of many parts of the world, and for the profound generosity and wisdom with which he offered advice and supported his family and friends.
Richard celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with wife, Penny.
Richard with his grandson, Charlie Waller (2008-2013).