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Pierre Robert Graham
Lieutenant, United States Navy
United States Foreign Service Officer
United States Ambassador
 Information Provided by Diane Lyn Cooper, 
A Proud And  Loving Daughter

Pierre Robert Graham was born August 10, 1922 at St. Nazaire, France, a port on the coast of Brittany.  His father, William H. Graham was from Connecticut, with roots in West Virginia.  He met and married Jeanne Marie Augereau of St. Nazaire while serving in the US Navy during WWI.  Pierre’s father died in 1940, shortly before a planned trip together (their first) back to the United States.  Pierre went alone.  He was admitted to the brand new Merchant Marine Academy in Kingsport, New York.  After graduating, he served in the US Navy from 1943 through 1946, with the rank of Lieutenant.  His active duty during WWII was in the Pacific.

After the war he married Lorraine Shurman, a German émigré, whom he had met on the ship on his voyage from France to the US.  After the war, using his GI Bill benefits, he received his Master Degree from the University of Chicago, working in the Chicago Stockyards to support his family.

He sat for and passed the US Foreign Service Examinations, joined the US State Department in 1949.  Mr. Graham became an Economic Officer in Tangier, Morocco 1951-54, Political Officer in Beirut, Lebanon 1954-57, and Paris 1957-58, Deputy Principal Officer in Dakar, Senegal 1958-1961, Personnel Officer Dept. of State, Washington, DC 1962-64, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Conakry, Guinea 1964-66, in 1966, he was detailed to the National War College.  From 1969 through 1973, he was US Representative to UNESCO in Paris.  He was Charge D’Affaires in Amman, Jordan 1973-74.  He was Ambassador to Upper Volta from 1974 until his retirement in 1978.

He spent his retirement years at his beloved Mas de la Prade, Maureillas, near Ceret, France, at the foot of the Pyrenees close to the border between France and Spain.  He lived there happily with his wife, Dr. Helgard Planken Graham until his death on April 24, 1988.  He is survived by his three daughters, Diane Lyn Cooper, Katherine Joan Graham, and Patricia Ann Reed, seven grandchildren in the US and a sister, two nephews and their 3 daughters in France.

In 1926, US Veterans provided funds for and built a memorial to the WWI US Veterans, designed by Whitney and which stood in the water off the beach in St. Nazaire.  The monument was blown up in 1941 by the Germans the day after Pearl Harbor, when Germany declared war on the United States.  Mr. Graham was asked by the Committee in his native St. Nazaire to undertake the reconstruction of the American Memorial.  His father, William H. Graham had supervised the construction of the original memorial.  Mr. Graham died before the completion of the reconstruction of the memorial and the committee decided to donate the additional funds for the construction and maintenance of a “Canot de Sauvetage” (a rescue boat) which bears the name of Pierre Robert Graham.

On May 22, 1999, his three daughters traveled to St. Nazaire, France to participate in the Baptism of the canot de sauvetage.  The boat is birthed in Le Croisic, a small resort and fishing port adjacent to St. Nazaire.  On your next visit to France, please stop in St. Nazaire to see the American Memorial.  It is a fine tribute to our US military, take a small side trip to the charming port of Le Croisic and see the “Pierre Robert Graham”, which has saved many lives.  If you can, visit the village of St. James in Brittany, not far from the Mont St. Michel, the American Cemetery there is an overwhelming and emotional sight.


Updated: 21 August 2001 Updated: 14 June 2003 Updated: 28 May 2006
US Department of State - SEAL