Phyllis Irene Gravatt, age 92, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 in Arlington, TX.
Irene was born on April 25, 1927 in Greenville, Missouri, the daughter of Phillip and Edna Joplin. She graduated from Elsinore High School in Elsinore, Missouri in May of 1943.
On November 17, 1944, Irene married the love of her life, Vernon Lee Gravatt, in Saint Louis, Missouri. They shared their love and lives with one another for 73 years, raising three children and later welcoming four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Irene was a Christian and last attended Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
Irene was preceded in death by parents Phillip and Edna Joplin; brothers Howard Joplin, Wayne Joplin, Robert Joplin, and JB Joplin; sisters Ruth Randolph and Mary Ellen Karshall; and by her beloved husband, Vernon Lee Gravatt.
She is survived by brother Oran Joplin, and sisters Esther Sartin and Shirley Harkins; daughter Donna Johnson and husband John III, son Dennis Gravatt and wife Karen, and son Phillip Gravatt and wife Paula. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren include John Johnson IV, wife Geri, and son John V; Ashlee Blackwell, husband Tyler, and sons Samuel and Eli; Stephanie Schnelle, husband Aaron, and son Wesley Strong II; and Nicole Gray, husband Casey, and daughter Colette.
During World War II, Irene's first true job after moving to Saint Louis post-high school was in a munitions plant where she met a handsome maintenance man named Vernon Gravatt. Smitten with him, she would purposely break her machine so that Vernon was forced to come to her rescue by way of repair. They soon courted, fell in love and married. When Vernon enlisted in the Army, Irene and her mother in law, Maude, went to work together in a paper factory tirelessly counting sheets of labels for everything from bottles of beer to decks of cards. Irene would complete her shifts and then suit up for her real passion: playing first base on a local baseball team for fun and recreation. She had grown up a tomboy through and through, and loved making her father proud by playing on only all-boys teams as a young girl. Always a gifted athlete, she also excelled as a cheerleader and majorette for the marching band. She continued playing baseball and softball throughout her childrens' early years, and they were often seen in the stands cheering her on. Irene also passionately supported her childrens' interests in music and sports, and would regularly sacrifice her own wants and needs to ensure lessons, uniforms and equipment were provided.
After relocating to Texas, Irene worked in public school administration as a Principal's Secretary for close to 25 years. She found that her greatest joy in life was
taking care of children and she served as a private nanny to multiple families, including her own grandchildren who were practically raised "over at Granny's house". Her Thanksgiving dinners were legendary (always making sure she cooked the turkey neck and saved it just for Phillip), her pies were unrivaled (Dennis will argue her Pineapple Cream Cheese pie is better than anything a Michelin chef could create) and she loved the sound of a piano playing in the house (when Donna would sing while playing it thrilled her even more). She also wasn't nearly as sneaky as she thought she was when allowing extra servings of ice cream to her great-grandchildren (Wesley only recently let it slip). Irene was happiest when family was around her table and Big Band music like Glen Miller was on her record player as she danced in her kitchen, and that's how she'll best be remembered.
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