Graham P Chynoweth

Graham Peters Chynoweth

Memorial Minute

Third Month 15, 2009

ConcordMonthly Meeting

After three years of living with cancer, Graham Peters Chynoweth, born Graham John Chynoweth, completed his 'journey to the other shore,’ with his wife, Linda Chynoweth Peters, by his side, in the sun room at their home in Canterbury on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 27, 2008.

Graham was born in his mother’s parental home in Portsmouth, England.  His childhood was a world tour, with annual moves including stays in Germany, Washington DC, Virginia, northern Japan, and California.  Graham graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1968.  His service in the Coast Guard included a tour of duty off Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Graham later completed a Master’s in hospital administration at George Washington University and moved to New Hampshire.  His natural talents and a desire to grow roots into his community led him to the practice of law which he began in 1983 after graduating from Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire.  He focused his legal career on family law, finding professional and personal fulfillment in helping his clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  An active member of the New Hampshire Bar Association, he served as a member of its Board of Governors and twice as chair of its Family Law Section.  Through this work within the Bar Graham played a pivotal role in helping tune state law to encourage more amicable settlements for divorcing couples.  Posthumously, The New Hampshire Bar Association awarded him the E. Donald Dufresne Award for Outstanding Professionalism.

Graham was a wise counselor for his friends, for his professional clients, and for the voluntary committees and elective bodies upon which he served.  Among these were a term as a representative in the NH State Legislature and a term as the first Board Chairman of New Hampshire Public Radio having been the driving force of its creation.

One committee assignment was particularly rewarding and formative to Graham’s experience and understanding of life as a Friend.  That was the Yearly Meeting’s Long Range Planning Committee of the late 1970’s.  Having joined Concord Monthly Meeting in 1975 as a convinced Friend, he was tapped as the fresh new face to join a team “aglow with weighty Quakers” (his words).  He knew the questions to ask that would aim for the root of the issue at hand.  His contributions were insightful, ever encouraging, realistic, and honest.  Graham added the levity needed to lighten things up at the right moments.  These became his hallmarks as he applied his formidable energy to other projects throughout his life.  

Working with the Long Range Planning Committee drew Graham right into the core of the Yearly Meeting which led to multiple terms serving variously on Permanent Board and the Personnel Committee.  And Graham always encouraged new members in Concord to delve into all that the Yearly Meeting had to offer.  At Concord Monthly Meeting Graham served as Clerk for three different periods of time as well as recording clerk for several terms.  He acted as recorder for many years and was a member of the Ministry and Counsel committee.  In fall of 2008, he was one of six incorporators when the Meeting formed a corporation to own property for a new home to be built for the Meeting.

From the late 1980’s until his death, Graham served on the board of the Obadiah Brown Benevolent Fund.  He felt the significance of history and held his predecessors in high esteem.  Graham enjoyed being able to trace the lineage of his seat on that board all the way back to William Rotch, a well known Quaker of his day. 

Graham delighted in the children of his community and worked tirelessly to support their growth.  Graham volunteered in classrooms, annually judging spelling bees, and bringing the United States Constitution to life on Constitution Day.  He famously and believably played the part of Benjamin Franklin in full costume before rapt young audiences.  Graham served on the local school board for several terms and ultimately as its chair.  He was the epitome of a public servant.  His peers described him as a person of unquestioned integrity, boundless passion, and deep compassion.  It was fitting that his memorial service on December 13, 2008 was held in the Canterbury Elementary School, a scant mile from his home.

Young people who found their way to Quaker Meeting were nurtured, indeed treasured, by Graham.  He chose to work with the elementary-aged children at New England Yearly Meeting sessions and retreats.  They brought out his inner child.  He played hard at JYM Ball and everything else.  He also mentored the young people, sharing his passion for language and precise expression, so important to the education of new clerks.  Graham took great satisfaction in their development as leaders for our future.  He also enjoyed role playing leaders of our past at YM sessions, William Rotch among others.  

So much of what Graham did arose from prayerful intention and his awareness of his place in the endless stream of life.  He was aware that he had received many gifts and shared them generously with those who were fortunate enough to know him.  Graham recognized the importance of life’s passages and made a point to celebrate them with the essential community of family and friends just as this minute does now.  His toasts, with flute of sparkling cider raised high, were renowned.  A birthday, a special accomplishment, an anniversary, an award – all were significant to him, worthy of recognition.  

Though he always returned to Quaker Meeting, Graham sojourned with several other spiritual communities.  With Linda, he attended services at two Roman Catholic parishes.  He entered into fellowship with Christian pastors and lay leaders during the formation of WVNH, a Gospel radio station.  This was a transformative time of ferment and growth in Graham’s spiritual life.  He was also very much at home in the Canterbury Community Church where his spirit was nourished.  His keen intellect and spiritual discipline challenged him to probe for answers and guidance while his heart and the Holy Spirit led him to search ever more deeply for God, and the seed of Christ within.  

It is the custom at Concord Meeting, at the rise of worship, for each attendee to introduce him or herself.  Invariably, Graham stated, “My name is Graham P. Chynoweth.  I live in grace and reside in Canterbury with my wife Linda Chynoweth Peters and our son Peter Chynoweth.”  In large measure that grace was living in the awareness of what is fundamentally important.  A young Friend wrote to thank him for being such a peaceful, steady presence through her childhood: “I will be holding you in the Light during all your transitions, and I firmly believe that wherever you reside, you will always live in grace.”

Graham never shrank from the truth.  And he was blessed that he came to understand the truth of his own mortality.  During Graham’s last month of life his visitors found a man whose ministry was not done.  He lifted their spirits even as they came to minister to him.  He put them at ease.  He inquired after their prayer life.  His compassion demonstrated that he was at peace with the truth of his impending death.  He passed from this life in the same manner in which he lived.  We are so blessed to continue to share with him the great sea of love even as we miss so deeply the comfort of his physical presence.