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Wolf-Graves, Betsy Rose

Betsy Rose Wolf-Graves died on June 6, 2017, at The Atriums in Overland Park, Kansas. She was 89 years old. A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Friday, June 16, 2017, at The Louis Memorial Chapel, 6830 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64131.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to:

• “DemocracyNow.org”: Listener sponsored news — U.S. and international

•  “siliconvalleydebug.org”: This is a collective in San Jose of mostly minority youth that do art, write their own news, and provide support to people with problems with law enforcement. They do not provide legal advice, but they do help families and the accused work in ways that tend to get better treatment from the system.

She was born Jan. 1, 1928, to Bess (Felsenberg) Wolf and Harry Ben Wolf Sr., in Kansas City, Missouri. She was confirmed in Congregation B’nai Jehudah in 1942 and graduated from Southwest High in the class of 1945. From there she went to the University of Colorado before transferring to University of Missouri in Columbia and graduating with a B.A. in English Literature.  

In 1952, she married Frank Josephson. They had a daughter, Nan. In 1962 they divorced and Betsy went back to school and obtained a master’s in public administration at UMKC.

She worked at different anti-poverty programs in Kansas City in the 1960s before joining the probation and parole office for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. In that capacity, she developed a “Volunteers in Probation Service (VIPS)” program to pair volunteers with probationers to help increase alternatives for constructive lives for the probationers while reducing recidivism.  

In 1970, she met a 26-year-old U.S. Air Force captain, Spencer Graves. They were married on Dec. 31, 1971. In 1976 Spencer left Kansas City to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to get a Ph.D. in statistics. In 1977 Betsy moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where she got a Master’s in Social Work.  

In 1982, they moved to Santa Clara, California, as Spencer got a job with Hewlett-Packard. Betsy found work with the Adult and Child Guidance Center in San José and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).   

In the late 1990s she worked as an LCSW for O’Conner Hospital in San José, California. During the 1990s and 2000s, she became active with a Jewish Voice for Peace, the Green Party of Santa Clara County, the San José Peace and Justice Center, and Silicon Valley De-Bug. The latter “is a story-telling, community organizing, and advocacy organization” composed largely of minority youth and their families.  

There she developed a system that helped youth snared in the criminal justice system avoid the harshest penalties typically applied to accused, who cannot afford adequate legal support. She introduced a social work and family therapy perspective to criminal justice. Part of this included getting families involved in preparing life histories that helped a judge see the support system available for convicted individuals; this in turn provided a basis for reduced sentencing. This program was so successful it achieved international recognition. Raj Jayadev, a lead organizer with De-Bug, has since taught this model of support at several places around the world, including in Moscow, Russia.  

In 2012, she broke her neck in a fall. Her health continued to decline. In June of 2015, she and Spencer moved back to Kansas City.  

She was preceded in death by her parents and brother. She leaves to mourn her husband, Spencer, daughter, Nan Josephson (Rick Bailey), grandson Bryan Bailey, and nephew Richard Wolf (Melanie Swaine).

Online condolences may be left for the family at www.louismemorialchapel.com.

Arrangements by The Louis Memorial Chapel, 816-361-5211.