She will be joining her Daddy today. She was by his side throughout his last years. I’d like to think Theo’s with them too and they will all be having a great cuddle together in heaven soon.
Anne Yarbrough Graves died peacefully at Providence Saint Joseph’s hospital on December 26, 2016 after a valiant but mercifully short battle with cancer. She was 76.
Annie was born November 15, 1940 in Detroit Michigan where she was a child actress and the four year old spokesperson for the Pressel Sausage Company. Dreaming of stardom, her family moved to California in the 1940’s and settled in Culver City.
Attending Culver High in the 1950’s, Annie was known for being kindhearted and funny. Head Cheerleader, Girl’s League President, Homecoming Queen – she even dated the Captain of the football team thus sweeping the high-school Superfecta.
Always a hard-worker, she went on to a modeling career at Robert Hall while working as a floral designer. Along the way, she won several 1950’s beach pageant titles including Miss Culver City and Venice Surf Festival. Acting, modeling and flowers would be the hallmarks of her life and she made every setting she touched more beautiful, whether by her creative designs or her charming, witty presence.
While modeling, she worked as Miss Clairol, and most amusingly as “Miss Naugahyde” at the Los Angeles Auto Show, displaying with a graceful gesture (which she would later repeat to great comedic effect) “my hat is Naugahyde, my dress is Naugahyde, my shoes are Naugahyde and even my purse is Naugahyde!”
She earned small roles in several movies of the era including cult favorite “The Magic Sword” with Basil Rathbone and “Runaway Girl.” She had recurring parts on both Gunslinger and Bonanza and was killed by Indians a number of times before this sad and final departure.
In 1964 she met singer Glenn Yarbrough. They married in 1967, had one daughter, Holly, in 1969. By 1971 they had “quit the biz” to sail around the world on a ’55 foot ketch they designed and built. During those years as sea, Annie cultivated her talent for writing. Excerpts of her memoir of the trip were published in the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) magazine. She also wrote many rhyming stories for children and countless memorable poems for friends.
In the mid-1970’s Annie and Glenn co-founded one of the first artist-run labels: Brass Dolphin Records. Annie produced Glenn’s “Live at the Troubadour” album and singlehandedly maintained an international mail order company for a decade.
Later in the 1980’s, her many years of floral arranging inspired her to start one of the first dedicated custom gift basket stores in L.A. called “I’m a Basket Case” on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. Later, she enjoyed being one of the few female designers at the high-end Flower Basket next-door.
Since 1964 she lived in and lovingly cared for the Josef Van der Kar house in the Hollywood Hills. It was built by the architect for his own family in 1940 and Glenn and Annie were the second owners. Annie dedicated her life to the maintenance of the house and garden and her spirit will always dwell there.
Until his death in 2002, Mr. Van der Kar, who became a lifelong friend, always ribbed her about turning his home into a “Hollywood House” complete with an outdoor pool and lava-rock waterfall planter in his once spare living room design. But it was the mid sixties after all, and he lovingly absolved her of her architectural sins, often expressing gratitude at her adoration of the house and grounds and preservation of his work.
She is preceded in death by her parents, Luther Eldon and Marion Theresa Graves, her dear brothers, John Charles and Thomas Eldon Graves, her ex-husband and lifelong friend, Glenn Robertson Yarbrough, and her most beloved dog Nikolas.
She is survived by her daughter, Holly Yarbrough Burnett, son-in-law Robert Burnett, as well as many dear family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Annie’s memory to the Stanford Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford CA 94305. Funds designated in her name will be used to preserve the history of her beloved house in the permanent Van der Kar collection.
It seems so wrong that her purse is on it’s own. It has never been more than about twenty feet from her for as long as I can remember. When she died today at 2:22pm (twenty-two has always been her special number) I clutched it close but it gave no comfort.
In a flash, she was gone. I can’t face going home without her now, so I’ve camped out at a hotel till I can retrieve her ashes and bring her back home. She would have loved this place and I’m just beginning to comprehend that the rest of my life will be filled with things I wish I could show her and tell her about.
For now, after ten long days and nights sleeping in her hospital room, I’m slipping under clean white sheets and dreading waking up in the morning to a world without her in it.
Goodbye Mom. But like that purse, you will never be far from me.
Mom’s journey with cancer has been a brief but brutal one. Four months to the day of her diagnosis, a week ago today, we came to the ER with life threatening complications from treatment. Her last radiation was two weeks ago and her burns have been so painful and debilitating she went from living a fully independent life to being completely immobile on the threshold of death.
As hard as the physical pain has been, the anxiety, emotional pain and fear generated by having so little time to adjust to a terminal prognosis has been much, much worse. Mom is so full of life, and her reaction to the news last weekend was flat out “NO. That can’t be true. Let’s get out of here.”
Yesterday, her hospice nurse explained that the level of medication necessary to control the pain of her radiation wounds is also enough to sedate her. She said it was very likely Mom would not continue speaking once she was getting her pain meds via continuous IV drip. Big talker though she is, Mom has been so distraught that she told me she she didn’t want to talk anymore and just wanted to sleep.
So….imagine my surprise, when earlier tonight as she was roused from the haze by a terrible coughing fit, she opened her eyes and weakly spoke, drawing me close. I leaned in, my ear to her lips, desperate to catch her faint wisp of words. I was sure I was about to recieve a magical moment of deathbed illumination.
“I….want…..my…..mail.” came the solemn whisper.
Yup. That’s Mom alright.
But a few hours later to my total astonishment a discernible smile broke over her face. It stayed there for quite some time as she very clearly spoke these words:
“It’s Beautiful. It’s Wonderful. I’m so Happy.”
She went on to say there were lights, like many bright moons, and her Mom was there.
I wish I could post the picture I took of her smiling so beatifically, but I fear she would rise up out of this bed and strangle me to death right his second if I let the world see her hair in this state. Even with zero platelets and about two white blood cells in circulation she managed to put on a full face of makeup this past Tuesday and had me grilling every woman on the oncology floor to see if anyone had any bobby pins.
For as long as I can remember, Mom and I have lit three candles when someone we love was about to leave this world. Always three candles and always lit when we heard the difficult news, and (mostly) kept lit for three days. “Lighting their way to heaven” we said. Across the miles, it was our private ritual. It’s Mom’s turn now, so I invite you all to light the runway for her. Some dear friends have started already and txted me their photos. It gives me great comfort to see them…(especially since I can’t light any here aboard the Good Ship Waking Nightmare).
Thank you so much for your kind comments and prayers. They have truly been lifting us up. Mom and I have been at St. Joe’s since last Friday. I’ve attached a picture of our little cabin with my bed tucked under the window. The view beyond is of Forest Lawn and I can see the steeple of the chapel where the memorial services for both Mom’s parents and her brother John were held. Their resting places are just out of view behind the tree line and somehow I find that comforting…..(though before she quit talking much, Mom and I joked that this is the absolutely the worst cruise ever and the activities director should definitely be fired.)
She has declined precipitously from the side effects of radiation. We are all in shock at how rapidly her rdeath is approaching. Last week she was independent at home, in treatment and hopeful for a cure. Her oncologist told me last night that they are shocked as well but he feels as things stand, she has days to perhaps weeks. To me it feels more like hours to days as her breathing and cognition have been changing rapidly.
As of yesterday morning the hospital was pressuring us about discharge plans but I hope they will just let us stay here peacefully from here on out. Mom emphatically stated that she doesn’t was to go back to her beloved Woodstock home and I want to honor that wish.
I feel very badly that so much of my time the past few days has been spent on the phone trying to line up a place for us to go instead of just being able to be present with Mom. The bureaucracy of our medical system is a terrible, terrible thing…but the incredible care and compassion the nursing staff, nursing assistants, and everyone has shown towards us has been amazing. I am deeply grateful to them and find it miraculous that they can do their jobs with such grace in spite of the relentless, unnecessary, and largely meaningless pressures they face from the cruelly broken system they must work within.
Thank you for reading these words. It makes me feel so much less alone to know that people are thinking of us with love. Please keep us in your prayers.
P.S. For those of you that knew our very special furry boy Theo…He died peacefully at home yesterday surrounded by his Daddy, Uncle Adam and Dr. Jennifer Douthwaite from Mockingbird Mobile Veterinary Service.
Heartfelt apologies for not responding to all these kind messages. The same week Dad died, my Mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with what is turning out to be terminal cancer. We have been at the hospital since last Friday with very severe radiation burns, neutropenia and an infection. Further chemoradiation is out of the question now.
Yesterday I found out we are also losing our three year old dog Theo, who has been battling kidney failure since he was a puppy. So…I guess I’ve got selfish reasons for posting today. I could use all the prayers I can get to weather this much sorrow. I will post and respond more here someday, I promise. I have so many pictures, songs, stories and memories I would love to share with you when I am able. With love and gratitude for all the warmth and care you’ve all shared with my family throughout this difficult year – Holly Yarbrough
Dad was cremated last Tuesday, August 16, 2016. The process began shortly before I made the first post here, and ended just before sundown that day. Since we don’t have a traditional memorial planned, the four folks who were closest to Dad these past six months (Adam, Donna, Julie and my husband Robert) came together to celebrate his memory.
We ate cheeseburgers, told Yarbs stories and laughed till dusk. It was a beautiful night. When the sun set, we snuck off under cover of darkness to trespass down to the banks of the beautiful Harpeth River. The Harpeth flows into the Cumberland, then the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi where its waters reach the sea.
Viking funereal dreams notwithstanding, Dad’s constitution leaned a lot more Buddhist than Viking, so I thought it fitting to float lanterns lighting the way as his spirit returned to the Great Ocean. Yarbs was perpetually in a hurry to GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD, and never ever EVER needed to ask for directions – so he was probably already way ahead of us and lolling around somewhere in the Caribbean….But it made us feel better to at least pretend we were helping.
I’ve attached a short video clip of the lanterns as they floated away, a picture of them just before they started to round the first bend, and a song I wrote and sang for Dad as they disappeared into the night. Though we were few in number, we felt the love of all who were there with us in spirit.
The song file is a quickie roughdraft I recorded on my computer this morning. I really wanted to share it with you though – warts n’ all. I’ll post a better version someday if I get a chance to record it properly. Now that Dad’s spirit is free, I hope this site will become an ongoing happy celebration of his life and work. I’d LOVE to read more of your stories, and I have lots more to share with you too… along with family photos and best of all some previously un-heard recordings of Dad’s! He always wanted to give his music away, and I intend to do it for him. I hope you will stay tuned…
Since Dad died last Thursday, I’ve been so touched by the outpouring of love from his friends and fans all over the world on Facebook and various message boards and news sites. Since those who loved him best are separated by such vast geography, I thought it fitting to come together and remember him through the one medium that connects us all.
Dad always wanted a Viking Funeral after seeing the movie Rocket Gibraltar in 1988…so for the past twenty-six years we’ve had a running joke about how the heck I was supposed to single-handedly drag his carcass into a dingy, trailer it to the ocean, launch it and then set it aflame with my olympic-caliber archery skills. He got a kick out of teasing me about it, and I always threatened to roll him onto a pool float in the backyard and torch it up instead.
Well, the sad day has arrived…and unfortunately I can’t manage his epic sendoff without committing felonies in at least three states. Since we’d like to keep using the pool, I have hatched another plan…As Dad’s cremation concludes later tonight at about 8pm CST, I’m planning to have a private Toro Nagashi remembrance on the Narrows of the Harpeth river with the folks who were here with me when Dad caught the spectacular Swift-Tuttle comet express out into the Universe just before 9:30pm on August 11.
Please hold him in your heart today as his body becomes dust. His spirit will live forever through his music and our memories. With love, (or as Dad often wrote) Peace & Love,
p.s. I’ll post more about the disposition of his cremains, as we figure that part out. In the meantime, everyone is invited to post any memories and stories here. If you would like to be a contributor to this site, just email me, and I’ll add you as an author so you can post whatever you’d like to share.