Obitutary: Deacon Founded Non-Profit, Catholic School Fund


Deacon Albert Graff.

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SAN DIEGO — Deacon Albert Graff, a retired deacon of the Diocese of San Diego, died May 3 at the age of 105.

Born in Mandan, North Dakota, Albert Graff was 3 years old when his family relocated to California, settling first in Fresno and then in Los Angeles.

A product of Catholic primary and secondary education, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was hired by General Electric and moved to Schenectady, New York.

In 1947, he married his wife, Marion, who died in 2000. The couple had five children.

In 1958, the Graff family moved to Rancho Santa Fe, when he accepted a job with General Atomics.

In May of 1983, the month after he retired from General Atomics, he was ordained to the permanent diaconate. He served the St. James-St. Leo Catholic Community in Solana Beach, continuing in active ministry well into his 90s.

He found great joy in preaching and in outreach to the poor.

In the mid-1980s, he co-founded Esperanza International, a 501( c )3 nonprofit that constructs homes for poor families in Tijuana. He was also a strong supporter of Father Joe’s Villages.

Deacon Graff moved into a nursing home in 2023, after breaking his hip.

A profile of then 102-year-old Deacon Graff appeared in The Southern Cross in February of 2021. In that article, he had a simple message for fellow Catholics: “Stay involved with your church. … You need to practice your faith.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated June 6 at St. James Parish.

Donations can be made in Deacon Graff’s memory to Father Joe’s Villages or to St. James Academy’s Deacon Al Graff Scholarship Fund, which was started in January of 2019 to help make Catholic education accessible to parishioners of limited means.

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