By Michael Adams
I first met Michael Graves at a black tie event in 2001 where we were seated at the same table. We weren’t at close proximity at dinner, but I was able to detect even in brief conversation his warmth, his sense of humor, and his keen intelligence.
It was several years later that I was part of a press event he hosted at his Princeton, New Jersey, home and studio to introduce a series of new products. By then, of course, he had suffered the effects of the infection that led to his paralysis and confined him to a wheelchair. Those of us who were there were awestruck at the beauty of his home, designed to suggest a villa in Rome, a city he cherished since his student days in the early ’60s.
But we were even more impressed with the agility of his maneuverings in his self-designed chair that allowed him to move in many directions, including up and down, with amazing ease and fluidity. He was a gracious host—warm, witty, and generous. (As he signed for each of us a poster of one of his sketches, he looked up once to quip: “And I don’t want to find this on eBay tomorrow.”)
Our next and last encounter was in Las Vegas in 2011 when we inducted him into HD’s Platinum Circle. His slow ascendance to the podium in his chair was both majestic and painful, as we saw clearly the mobility challenges he faced every day. His acceptance remarks were, typically, a bit acerbic: “What took you so long?”
But he also had an impassioned message. As he recounted, his illness began when he fell asleep one night feeling unwell and awoke the next morning paralyzed for the rest of his life. His plea to us to appreciate and savor every bit of good health and happiness that we can was a stunning moment—the single most powerful Platinum Circle speech in my experience.
Mr. Graves’ legacy as an architect and artist is assured. I’m gratified that I’ll also be able to remember him as a as a selfless humanitarian, and as a generous and gentle man.