MUNISING – As the last image of the tribute to Amy Dale Graves appeared on the screen and the song she and her husband Al considered to be theirs – “When I Am With You” by Sheriff – faded away, there was a moment of silence, then thunderous applause … and not a dry eye in the house.
Throughout the special video, put together by Amy’s cousin and best friend forever Elaine LeVeque with help from Al, there had been both laughter and tears from the 200 or so people attending the In The Pink Celebration of Life Luncheon Saturday at the American Legion Post in Munising.
The event is sponsored by the Eric R. Beverly Family Foundation to raise funds to help Alger County families who are battling cancer. Danielle Tiernan Beverly, a Munising native who has battled breast cancer three times, and her husband Eric, a former NFL player, started the foundation to help the community where she was raised.
This was the eighth year the foundation had put on a fundraising event in Munising, but the first in which Amy Graves wasn’t one of the volunteers.
In June, 43-year-old Graves lost a 10-year battle with breast cancer and Saturday’s event was dedicated to her memory.
“Amy wasn’t one who liked attention. She’d be a little uncomfortable with it,” Al Graves said before the luncheon began. “But I think today she has a smile on her face. There are a lot of people here who appreciate her and what she did for this community.”
LeVeque put hours into making the video tribute to her cousin and wanted to emphasize something.
“I think it’s really important to know about Amy that the strength was there her whole life,” LeVeque said. “It wasn’t something that came along when she was diagnosed with cancer. Amy always had tremendous strength.”
Amy’s sister Carmen Baker agreed.
“Amy didn’t want cancer to take over her life,” Baker said. “She didn’t let it stop her.”
For instance, when Baker was living out of state and gave birth to twins, one of the babies had to stay in the hospital.
“Amy came right after chemo to help me with one of the twins,” Baker said. “That was Amy.
“The other thing about Amy was she never thought she was special. She thought she was no different than you.”
But the tributes paid to her showed Amy Graves was indeed a special person.
“Amy was a dear friend to Eric and I,” said Danielle Beverly, who lives in Georgia. “She was the backbone behind the foundation in Alger County … I cannot say enough about what she did for us. We miss her more than words can say.
“But we have her spirit with us. Whenever I see Al, Ryan or any of her family members, I feel Amy’s spirit. … And today, I feel her shining down on us.”
Delisha Upshaw, the foundation’s executive director, invited Al Graves and his and Amy’s son Ryan – a member of the U.S. Marine Corps – to light a candle in her memory. Then after Upshaw read a poem in tribute to her friend Amy, she directed some remarks to the audience.
“This is a great community, she said. “Thank you for the way you embrace me. And thanks to your generous support, we have not had to turn anyone away who has sought our help. Last year, we started offering help to (Alger County) families battling any form of cancer. All the money that’s raised here stays here, so really, this is all possible thanks to you.”
The Eric R. Beverly Family Foundation has helped scores of people through its eight years of existence, including making a $10,000 donation to Munising Memorial Hospital to help with the purchase of imaging equipment.
It also started a scholarship program for Munising High School, has a wig and scarf closet through the hospital and has launched a Caring and Sharing program that provides information to those who have recently been diagnosed with cancer.
At the event’s conclusion, Beverly paid one more salute to her friend.
“Let Amy’s spirit live through you during those days when you wake up feeling down,” Beverly said. “Think of her. Think of her smile. Amy touched so many lives.
“Amy, you will always be a part of our foundation. You will always be with us.”
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is email@example.com.