Norfolk business owner and philanthropist greets 100th birthday with grace

Norfolk

NORFOLK, VA. (WAVY) – A well-known Norfolk native and business owner is getting ready to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Mildred Graves was born in 1919 and opened Graves Funeral Home with her husband,Thomas, in the 1950s.

She says she’s excited to turn 100 years old on Tuesday and feels happy she will be able to do it with her family this weekend.

Graves and her family are known for their funeral home. She says her husband always wanted to own one and they opened it, starting with nothing, for the African American community.

“To service them with dignity, honor and graciousness and something they could afford,” Graves said.

Graves says her husband got certified to work in the funeral home business after returning from war and worked at the post office before deciding to open their own funeral home.

Sixty-six years later, it’s still family owned and operated.

“People thought we were crazy and foolish but talking with the family, they said go for it, and so we did.”

Four years after we got married, we opened,” she said.

Graves retired as a teacher with Norfolk Public Schools and still continues to give back to the community.

Each year around the holidays, she hosts a turkey drive and gives to families in need.

“We are so grateful to be able to give back to the community through our family business for 66 years,” she said.

Graves has seen a lot in her life and lived through a lot. Her family calls her “Mildred the Miracle” after doctors brought her back to life when she suffered a heart attack in a 2018 during surgery.

Graves says doctors told her people rarely survive and they were surprised she pulled through.

She’s also a 55-year breast cancer survivor and says she was diagnosed when people thought cancer was taboo. She credits excellent doctors to keeping her alive but never expected to reach 100.

“I am excited to be able to be here at this age with my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren. To see them and to be with them is a great honor and a great joy,” Graves said.

She says the biggest difference she’s seen over the last 100 years is the way the younger generation treats others today and says people used to talk out their differences instead of fighting or pulling guns.

Graves wants those who are growing up now to listen to their parents and grandparents, but to also study and work hard.

“You don’t envy that person because you think they have more than you. Think of what you have, and where you want to go, and what you want to do. This is important because you can do this,” she said about succeeding in life.

Graves will have a big birthday bash this weekend.

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