Mack GrahamMack Graham, former publisher of the Devils Lake Daily Journal and founder of the restaurant MacJohn’s (now Felix’s) has died in Arizona on Saturday, May 2, 2009 after a two-month struggle with cancer. He was 70 years old.
Mack Graham, former publisher of the Devils Lake Daily Journal and founder of the restaurant MacJohn’s (now Felix’s) has died in Arizona on Saturday, May 2, 2009 after a two-month struggle with cancer. He was 70 years old.
Mr. Graham, whose family roots in Devils Lake go back to before the town’s founding, was born February 19, 1939 at Devils Lake General Hospital to Milford “Miff” Graham and Jane Yerxa Graham of Minneapolis.
He attended Devils Lake Central where he was voted “Life of the Party” by his peers and graduated with the class of 1957 after distinguishing himself particularly in sports and music. He was a member of the first DL Central hockey team and captained the team in 1956 and 1957. He was also captain of the Devils Lake Pee-Wee Hockey Club (then bantam and junior varsity age) team that placed third in the 1955 nationals held in Boston, MA. Under the coaching of his father, who founded the Devils Lake Golden Gloves boxing program, he fought in his weight-class and went undefeated.
He played trumpet first-chair in the Devils Lake Governor’s Band of North Dakota and for several years served at funerals and military burials for the playing of “Taps”—a song that to this day never lost its power to stir him.
Mr. Graham attended the University of North Dakota for two years and was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. At UND he met his future wife Geraldine “Jeri” Wartner of Harvey, ND. They married in March 1961.
After college he worked with his father at the Devils Lake Daily Journal as advertising manager then eventually becoming the third generation to publish the paper after his father retired. The Grahams sold the newspaper in 1982 after 62 years as publishers.
In 1977 Mr. Graham along with John “Jack” Leevers opened MacJohn’s Lodge and The Mucky Duck Pub. He earned a strong reputation as a businessman of ethics and honesty.
In 1982 he sold his business interests in Devils Lake and moved to Scottsdale, AZ. There he established Graham Realty, later Graham Enterprises. He also graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He retired from real estate in 2007 but he never stopped cooking.
Known for his humor, sociability and love of food, both Mack and Jeri were renowned for their cooking and entertaining, as hosts of many parties and celebrations for their friends
He was past president of the Northwestern Daily Press Association, a member of Elks, Chamber of Commerce and the Devils Lake Town and Country Club.
After retirement he became an avid billiards player and aficionado, traveling to various places where he met many players and writers of the sport. At the time of his death he was working toward certification as a billiards instructor and had achieved a rating of eight in the American Poolplayers Association handicapping point system.
Diagnosed in late February with stage four metastatic cancer, he was given the choice between fruitless chemotherapy or no treatment. He opted for no treatment knowing both choices would end the same. He only wished it would go quickly, and it did—much too quickly say those who loved him. He died May 2 at 1:04 pm in his bed at home with his sons and sister at his side.
Surviving him are his sons Scott (Chinapha) and Barry (Paul) of Chicago; sister Lynn (Dick) Hentges of Fargo; brothers-in-law Al (Renaye) and Richard Wartner; nephews Jefferey Wartner, David and Rob Hentges and niece Kathy Jackson; four step-grandchildren and four grand nieces and nephews.
Preceding him in death were his parents and his wife.
Services will be held at Gilbertson’s Funeral Home on May 14th at 2 p.m., followed by a graveside internment at Devils Lake Cemetery. A reception will also be held at Felix’s Restaurant and Lounge.
Mack Howard Graham, newspaper publisher, restaurateur and real estate broker, February 19, 1939—May 2, 2009.
Friends may sign the online register book and share memories at www.gilbertsonfuneralhome.com