They were not attention seekers.
They both sought to just help others.
They were both gentlemen in every sense of the word.
And the Kankakee region will be less so because of their absence.
Norm Graham, the owner / operator of Graham Industries, 300 E. Chestnut St., then Graham Furniture, 189 W. Court St., died July 7. Pastor Ed Kannapel, the creator and director of Gift of God Street Church and Men’s Shelter, died July 10.
Graham died at the age of 87. Pastor Ed was 73 years old.
It would be safe to describe these two men as unusual men. They just did their job without fanfare. They just fulfilled their mission, regardless of what others thought or said.
“He always had a vision of passion for others”, Graham’s son, the Rev. Scott graham, said of his father. âHe was committed to serving. “
Even though he was 87 when he died, that did not translate into a retirement of around 20 years. Graham worked six days a week in his downtown furniture store until he was 85. He did not leave his company until May 2020.
Asked what his father’s legacy would be, the Reverend Graham, who is the pastor of the Kankakee True Life Church, 2095 W. Station St., proposed two words: Serve. Community.
Graham did not go to school after sixth grade. Homework with the family forced him to work. He worked labor intensive jobs to bring money into the house.
His eldest son, Gary, noted that Graham’s businesses weren’t so much about making money as they were building relationships. Businesses have also provided him with a platform to serve others.
He often made people stop at the store who just wanted to talk and pray with Norm.
âIt was the interaction he loved. Obviously, businesses needed to make money, but he just loved people, âGary said.
âPeople felt comfortable telling him their deepest stories. The furniture store has become a gathering point. He wanted to help those in need. He embraced the community and the community embraced him.
Gary noted that his father wasn’t too worried about his retirement years because he didn’t think he would live long. For as many things as his father was right, that thought missed the mark.
He spent time serving his son’s congregation. He was also pastor in the Township of Pembroke area.
Even though his father lived to be 80, Gary said his father’s death was still a shock.
âI thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t. I guess you are never prepared.
On the northwest side of Kankakee, Pastor Ed has passed away.
Indispensable in the battle to help not only the homeless, but also those living on the fringes of society, Pastor Ed was a pragmatic force in running the organization he created at 660 N. Fifth Ave. in 2008.
Last week, Gift of God board member Rich Allers noted that he was still amazed at the ability Pastor Ed possessed.
âHis heart and his goal was to help people save themselves. They [shelter occupants] were so dejected that they no longer believed they had hope. But he told them they had as many opportunities for a better life as anyone else.
During his final weeks of life, many former shelter occupants and church members stopped by to speak with the man who worked with them to transform their lives away from the streets and, in many cases, drugs and alcohol they had become addicted to.
Pastor Ed’s shelter became known as the âLast Door Missionâ because it was more often than not the last opportunity for those in need.
Board member Chuck Carnes noted that Pastor Ed worked to instill a belief that the men at the shelter have the ability to change course within them.
âHe wanted them to be successful,â he said.
Now it will be up to others here to take up the torches of quiet leadership held by Graham and Pastor Ed.
While most of us – myself included – may question our ability to take on such a task, we most certainly possess at least some of this compassion and wisdom.
Let’s make sure, as we say goodbye to Graham and Pastor Ed, that the torches of these two soft-spoken giants are not extinguished.
Lee Provost of the Daily Journal writes about local business rumors, whereabouts and other notes of interest. Anyone with information to share should contact Provost at [email protected] or 815-937-3364.