Lives well lived

Written by Sara Garrison

Jessie Davies, Jan Graff and Kent Criser had lives well lived. Their legacy will live on in the memories and hearts of all who were touched by their kindness, their compassion and their character.

Jessie Davies

Hard worker and proud father, who was known for his incredible personality and smile, locker room attendant of 23 years at Crestview Country Club, Jessie Davies, passed away in October of 2017 at age 56.

Jessie was born in Swiftown, Mississippi to a sharecropper mother and a day laborer father. His humble beginnings laid the foundation for his humility and incredible work ethic.

In 1994, Jessie started managing the men’s locker room at Crestview Country Club — a job that he worked until weeks before his passing.

“Jessie loved his job and he was loved by all who knew him,” says Jessie’s wife, Jessica Emrick Davies. “We couldn’t walk through the grocery store, zoo or a school event without stopping to talk. Jessie had a great sense of style, we would call him, ‘Our dad — the celebrity’, often teasing that he had to look good for the paparazzi.”

At Crestview Country Club is where Jessie met Jessica. The two were close friends for more than 15 years, spending the last ten years as a couple. They were married this year, on Sept. 6, 2017.

Jessie was a proud family man. He had four children, Jessie Jr., Danielle, Ashley, 7-year-old son, Nicholas and three grandchildren.

“One of the things that I loved most about Jessie was the pride he took in providing for his family. It was important to him…that he be able to do that by himself,” says Jessica. “Jessie was the epitome of a proud father. If you had the pleasure of engaging him in conversation then you knew all about Nicholas, his youngest son and his favorite topic. His college team attire always reflected a steady rotation between WSU for Ashley and K-State for Danielle, beaming every time we made a big deal of whose alma mater he was wearing that day.”

Jessie also had another attachment, his beloved car, a Mercedes-Benz that Jessica affectionately calls the “first love” of his life.

Jessie Davies has left a legacy that will carry on in the lives of all who knew him.

“My sister said it best in her eulogy at Jessie’s funeral. She said, in life remember Jessie by finding work you love and doing it so well that you are irreplaceable. Focus on others. When you are with them, be with them. Put your phone down. Turn the TV off. Look them in the eye. Ask them about themselves. Make them the center of the universe if only for a moment,” says Jessica. “Smile a lot, and find someone special and build a life around them that is so full of love and joy that the whole world wishes they have what you have.”

Jan Graff

Loving, selfless, compassionate and persevering are just a few words to describe Jan Graff who passed away in September of 2017 at age 67.

Jan grew up on a farm outside of Mesa, Ariz. In July 1969, she met the love of her life at a church dance — her soulmate, Tom Graff.

Tom and Jan were married on Sept. 3, 1970. The couple later had two boys, Adam and Andrew.

In 1977, the Graff family moved to Wichita after Tom was accepted as head of the marriage and family therapy program at Wichita State University.

Jan was a teacher who loved working with children as well as being involved and helping others in the community. While Adam and Andrew were growing up, Jan volunteered for her children’s schools. She was also active with her church, serving in a variety of leadership roles including her favorite one: working with the young singers in the church children’s choir.

“Jan was always community service oriented,” explains Dr. Tom Graff, Jan’s husband of 47 years. “She was so selfless and wanted to do whatever she could to enrich someone else’s life.”

Jan’s selflessness continued throughout her life. Just days before her passing, Jan met with and offered guidance to friends who were struggling. She even distributed many pieces of her belongings to others, prior to her passing.

“Jan understood intimacy and being close. She wanted to pass her belongings on to bless others and enrich someone else’s life,” says Dr. Graff. “She was such a self-sacrificing person, who never complained and was so grateful to live a great life. She loved teaching and helping the poor or youth. She would always go the extra mile to help others.”

For 34 years, Jan served as the office manager for Tom’s psychology and marriage and family therapy practice. The couple loved working and spending time together.

“As a psychologist, I knew couples working together could be a struggle, but for us it was beautiful. I was privileged to be her husband. It was an incredible honor to work together each day. She was my buddy and my best friend,” explains Dr. Graff. “We were soulmates. She would always say we are two peas in a pod. Jan knew how to love and how to give of herself, unconditionally.”

Tom and Jan enjoyed spending time as a family and together as a couple. They enjoyed working in the yard, running errands, traveling with their family and shopping. One of Jan’s favorite activities was mowing their lawn while Tom trimmed the bushes and trees.

“Our family was Jan’s hobby,” says Dr. Graff. “She worked hard and took pride in raising our kids. Her legacy lives on through our children and grandchildren and with everyone she met.”

Dr. Graff continues, “Jan was an adventurer who embraced life. She died with no regrets. She believed we came to this earth to grow, set a good example and emulate spiritual principles. Jan’s goal in life was to make the world a better place and she did just that. We had a great life together and a great marriage. She was a blessing.”

Mervyn ‘Kent’ Criser

Charismatic and kind are just two attributes used to describe Wichita businessman, Mervyn ‘Kent’ Criser, who passed away in April of 2017 at age 60.

Kent, a life-long Wichita native, grew up in Riverside and graduated from North High School in 1974. While at North High, Kent was involved in various ministries such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Young Life, and Navigators, all while playing his favorite sport, football. As a senior, he was selected to play in the very first Kansas Shrine Bowl football game, featuring the top Kansas high school senior football stars.

After high school Kent furthered his education at Friends University where he studied business, was in Singing Quakers and played football. Kent’s athletic career at Friends was nothing short of excellent, as he was a four-year starting linebacker and KCAC Champion.

“Kent was such a humble person, but playing football in the Shrine Bowl and for Friends University meant a lot to him,” says Kent’s wife, Linda Criser.

In 1990, Kent met his wife, Linda. The couple were married for 25 years. They have two children: daughter Kasey, and son Kenton.

Following college, Kent went to work for his father’s company, Air Capital Vending. After twenty years in the business and ten years as president, Kent later sold the business in 2007.

After selling Air Capital Vending, Kent started Supply Solutions Corp., an automated inventory control company. At the same time Kent got his real estate license, working for Dave Neal and Associates.

In 2012, the Wichita Area Association of Realtors awarded Kent with the “Rising Star” award which is presented as a tribute for excellence in sales in the first year, and “Rookie of the Year” awards for commercial sales.

“Kent was a natural fit in the real estate business,” says Linda. “He loved real estate and he understood the business. He was such a people person. Kent was a great listener and people were drawn to him.”

Although Kent’s career was important to him, he was an incredible son to his parents, Mervyn and Marcia Criser. He was a wonderful husband, father, and uncle. He took pride in his family and he loved spending every spare moment he could with them.

“Kent was an encourager, who lead by example living for the Lord,” says Linda. “I love to see the legacy he has left with our children. Our children have his kind heart and gentle spirit.”

Linda continues, “Kent made the world a better place. All who knew Kent, knew him as a kind and gentle soul. He had charisma that infected those around him with joy and happiness.”

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