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Mary Lou Graves

Mary Lou Graves died quietly on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

She was the beloved wife of 66 years to Dr. Charles Graves and the treasured mother of Dr. Charles Graves (Denise), Louella Freeman (Tim), Nancy Billington (Brad) and Dr. George Graves (Melanie), as well as nine grandchildren and five, soon to be seven, great grandchildren.

Mary Lou was born in Loma Linda, California to Dr. Leslie and Lula Ekvall. She had two younger brothers, Dr. David Ekvall (deceased) and LTC Charles Ekvall Retired (Terri). Mary Lou grew up traveling the world as her family followed Dr. Ekvall’s medical Navy career wherever it led. Her world experiences ignited Mary Lou’s passion for people, places and new adventures.

She graduated as a nurse from Loma Linda University where she met and married Charles Graves on June 11, 1951. She supported Dr. Charles in his dream to serve the medical needs of a small town in his home state of Tennessee. They moved to Dunlap in 1955, working together to eventually expand Sequatchie General Hospital to a 49-bed facility. Mary Lou worked as nursing director, floor nurse, operating room supervisor and emergency room RN, and taught numerous nursing aid courses in the community.

Later, Mary Lou was an independent nursing consultant preparing area hospitals and home health organizations for Joint Commission inspections so they would qualify to receive funding.

After retiring, she and her husband opened Mary Lou’s Luncheonette in the heart of downtown Dunlap. Dr. Charles was the gracious host and cashier, while Mary Lou cooked her own recipes five days a week for almost five years. She was a leader in many areas at the Seventh-Day Adventist church and school. Mary Lou brainstormed the idea of teaching kids how to swim for Vacation Bible School at the Graves family pool and she personally taught this vital life skill for four decades.

Her talents extraordinaire are too numerous to list. Mary Lou’s love and creative life reflected God’s awesome love and her absence dims our lives. We look forward to our reunion with our beloved Mary Lou when Jesus returns. It is well with our souls.

Funeral services were held Saturday, November 4 in the funeral home chapel with David Ryder officiating. Burial was in Sequatchie County Memorial Gardens with Ron Follett officiating.

An online guestbook is at

Ewton Funeral Home and Cremation Center of Dunlap was in charge of arrangements.

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