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Subject: Producer Robert Graff

Dies at 99
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Date Posted: Thursday, February 07, 03:46:32am

Robert Graff

Robert D. Graff, 99, Navy man, newspaper writer, author, novelist, in the 1950's a live television producer, feature and documentary film maker, international management consultant, conservationist, dog breeder, fisherman, and husband of over 50 years to Marjorie Sawyer Goodman Graff, died peacefully at his home in Oldwick, N.J., on Jan. 27, 2019.

After growing up in his hometown of Scarsdale, N.Y., Mr. Graff graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1937, and then graduated magna cum laude in economics from Harvard in 1941. After graduating from Harvard at age 21 he joined the Navy in 1941 as a V7 officer (a 90-day wonder), and was assigned to the cruiser Atlanta. He was badly wounded in the third battle of Savo Island, Guadalcanal (Nov. 12-13, 1942), spent the better part of a year in various hospitals, and when given the opportunity to be honorably discharged, decided to go back to battle and spent the next three years in the South Pacific on the Monterey and finally the Flint.

When Mr. Graff was in his mid-80s, he returned with his son and grandson to Savo Island, Guadalcanal, the scene of the battle, now called Iron Bottom Sound, and laid a wreath on the waters above his fallen comrades. This story was retold in the book "Neptune's Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal" by James D. Hornfischer. His excellent oral history of his war years is housed at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

He became a journalist with United Press in New York, then in Paris where he lived from 1946 to 1950. After holding a one-year Fulbright Scholarship in Italy, he returned to the United States, where he joined the National Broadcasting Corporation to produce and direct documentary films. In 1960 he established a motion picture and television production company, Sextant Inc. that produced a variety of programs for all three major networks and a feature film.

Mr. Graff created two series for the ABC television network: "Winston Churchill, The Valiant Years" and "FDR" (the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt). He also contributed to NBC television network's "The Wisdom Series" with filmed interviews of Jawaharlal Nehru, David Ben-Gurion, Eamon de Valera, Sean O"Casey, Pablo Casals, Marcel Duchamp, Igor Stravinsky and other persons who shaped the 20th Century. He also produced the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky's and George Balanchine's ballet, "The Flood," for CBS television network and co-produced with his lifelong friend, Robert Emmett Ginna, a feature film, "Young Cassidy," based on the playwright Sean O'Casey's autobiography, for MGM. His ten-minute short documentary, "The Neighboring Shore," based upon Antonio Franconi's wood cuts, won a Golden Lion Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival in 1960.

Later, Mr. Graff became a senior management consultant for Arthur D. Little and worked there, and in other consulting groups he helped form, until retirement. His clients included private companies, non-profit organizations and government ministries in the United States and in many other countries, including, Brazil, Colombia, Iran and Mexico. Mr. Graff was a co-founder of Aid to Artisans, an international crafts-support group based in Hartford, Conn., that has brought significant economic improvement over the past 30 years to the lives of thousands of artisans and their families in 20 countries around the world.

Mr. Graff collected first editions of contemporary English, Irish and American authors, which were later donated to major libraries in New York, Chicago, and at Harvard, where the Harvard College Library named him an honorary curator of Modernist Literature in 1998. He and his wife collected modern art with paintings and drawings from their collection bequeathed to a number of museums in New York and Chicago. Mr. Graff was president of the Grolier Club for book and print collectors in New York and was named an honorary member in 2003 for his contributions to the world of books. He was a chairman of the Council of Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library; a member of the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art; a trustee of the Salzburg Seminar and served on advisory boards at the Houghton Library, the Harvard Library and the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a member of the Century Association and the Council on Foreign Relations.
For over 60 years, Mr. Graff lived with his loving family on High Time Farm, a working farm in Bedminster, N.J., where life included raising award-winning livestock to nurturing beloved hunting dogs and Igor, a favorite pet dachshund, to Skyder, a national champion longhaired dachshund.

Mr. Graff was active in public policy organizations in New Jersey, where he was a founder of New Jersey Future, a land-use planning and growth management group that helped put New Jersey's first comprehensive statewide land-use guidelines in place. He was also chairman of the Bedminster Planning Board and served on Bedminster Township and Somerset County Boards. In his 80's, Mr. Graff dedicated significant time and resources to the reform movement to improve K-12 urban public education in New Jersey. He helped establish the Charter Public School Association and helped create Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3). During the last 15 years of his life, based on several trips to the Canadian Arctic, he researched and wrote a novel about climate change and the fate of polar bears.

Mr. Graff was predeceased by his wife of over 50 years, Marjorie Sawyer Goodman Graff, whom he met on the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art; his sister, Gloria Graff Bourne; and eldest step-son, Kenneth Sawyer Dewey, an avant-garde artist. He is survived by three step-children, Ariane Dewey Dannasch, Christopher Claiborne Dewey and Suzette Graff Dewey, as well as a niece, two nephews, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, all of whom greatly enhanced the scope of his life.

A private remembrance will be held in the Spring. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the World Wildlife Fund, the Raritan Headwaters Association, or the Goodman Theater, Chicago, Ill.

Published in Hunterdon County Democrat (or) Suburban News on Feb. 7, 2019.


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