Rafael (Ralph) Francisco Grajeda Jr., 85 of Lincoln, died early Sunday, May 3, 2020 while in Hospice care. Ralph was the son of migrant workers and was the eldest of 7 children who grew up in Fort Lupton, CO. His parents were Rafael Grajeda Sr. and Laura (Vasquez) Grajeda. Ralph joined the Army in 1954 and was a member of the Army band. He met his wife Angela, while playing saxophone at a dance on base and married her in 1956. While enlisted, Ralph developed a love of literature. After discharge, he earned a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Colorado - Boulder (1960,1962). He earned a Ph.D. of Philosophy in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (with a focus on Chicano Literature) in 1974.
Ralph was an English professor for many years. His career began in 1962 at Kent State University. He also taught at Creighton University in Omaha and was tenured at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While at UNL he advocated for minority students and was a leader in raising awareness of Chicano issues. He offered the first Chicano Literature course on campus and retired as the Director of Ethnic Studies. In his retirement he continued to read as many books as possible. He also focused on his garden, his grandchildren, and his feline friends.
Ralph was incredibly creative. Academically, he was open to discovering new topics of interest. He would focus his energy into learning more about issues and then he put his new knowledge into practice. He researched Chicano issues and raised awareness by creating conversations based on his findings and advocating for his Chicano allies throughout his life. He was passionate about his gardening; always using every spare piece of land to plant one more tomato plant and turning his basement into a greenhouse overflowing with plants that would eventually fill his backyard with cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of peppers. He cultivated the most beautiful flowers of many varieties. He did this with photography; building his own dark room and purchasing various cameras to take photos of his family with. He turned his love of literature into a library in his attic that could teach you so much about the world. In his later years he began selling books online, sharing his collection with many. That meant a lot to Ralph, sharing the fruits of his labor with others.
He is survived by his wife, Angela Chavez Grajeda, his four children: Joan Driggs of Omaha, Gregory Grajeda, Lori Chleborad, and David Grajeda, his four grandchildren: Alex (Amanda Kephart) Driggs of Omaha, Michael (Lisa) Driggs of Omaha, Emily Chleborad, and Sophia Chleborad: his siblings, Lupe Evans (TX), Angie, Elizabeth, and Carol Grajeda (all CO), and his beloved cat, Lucy.
Ralph has left a long legacy in his passing. He will live on in the memories of his colleagues and students from the University through his contributions to Chicano literature in his 1998 publication of Our Treasures/Nuestros Tesoros: A Celebration of Nebraska’s Mexican Heritage/Una Celebración de la Herencia Mexicana de Nebraska. He will live on in the memories of his wife in the time they spent together dancing and cooking together. He will live on in the memories of his children from his significant involvement in their lives. He involved them in his gardening, supported their sporting interests, was the boys’ Webelos leader. He is fondly remembered for always painting a special prize egg to find at Easter. He will live on in his grandchildren’s memories of “grandpa bites”, going fishing, helping him in his garden, and in Mr. Crow, a stuffed animal who lived in his house and was filled with grandpa’s magic. Ralph Grajeda truly was a magnificent man who was able to build strong relationships with all he met. He preached acceptance and love in all that he did and led a beautiful life alongside those he held dearest to him.
Consistent with his inquisitive nature, Ralph donated his body for research and education. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mulder Veterinary Hospital in his name. A service announcement will be made later.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Rafael (Ralph) Francisco Grajeda, Jr., please visit our floral store.