URBANNA—Diane Carol Sampson Gravatt passed away peacefully on May 6, 2021, in her beloved Urbanna home, Lansdowne.
Diane was born on February 3, 1946, to Commander Russell and Marie Sampson and grew up in many places, as her father was a career officer in the Navy.
Diane met the love of her life, Arthur Broaddus (AB) Gravatt III, in 1965 while they both attended Old Dominion University.
In 1966 Diane traveled with her then boyfriend aboard the Miss Anne, setting sail from Carter Creek, and saw the town of Urbanna for the first time. Upon walking to the top of the hill she was first introduced to Historic Lansdowne. Wanting to see the inside of the home, AB drew on a little-known fact shared by his father: There is always at least one door unlocked in every house in the state of Virginia. Upon finding the open door, Diane viewed the inside of the house, walked out and exclaimed, “I will marry you but only if you buy me that house.” Diane married retired Col. Arthur Broaddus Gravatt III on October 7, 1967, and quickly acclimated to the role of Army wife.
During the 31 years they spent serving their country as officer and wife, Diane was named Mayor and Wife of the Year at Fort Benning, West Point, Schofield Barracks and Fort Lewis. She was a school board member while they served at Fort Bragg. While at Fort Benning and Fort Lewis, she founded Santa’s Castle, a Christmas store that brought in new toy donations allowing service members to pick out gifts ensuring a perfect Christmas for all the children on the base; these efforts continue today. In 1989 she coordinated Thanksgiving dinner for more than 1,200 service men and women.
During the early years of their marriage, Diane and AB fostered more than 13 children. Diane was a dedicated member to any community she joined and knew the importance of giving back to all her communities.
While always willing to volunteer she was also a respected professional within her chosen field of social work. After obtaining her master’s in psychology from Evergreen University in Washington, she worked 12 years for the Virginia Department of Corrections at the Haynesville Correctional facility where inmates had the opportunity to seek counseling from Diane and her dog Annie, who she took to work every day. Later she worked for eight years as a counselor with the Virginia State Department of Parole.
In 1998, after 32 years, AB made good on his promise to purchase Lansdowne upon his retirement from the Army. Diane quickly set about the work of restoring this anchor of the community and opening its doors to all who wished to enter. They moved in and set up permanent residence in 2001.
During the 20 years Diane lived in Urbanna she volunteered and served her community with her many talents, including as Mayor of the Town of Urbanna from 2018-2020. She was a tireless volunteer and happy to serve her community as the treasurer for the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society, co-founder of the Urbanna Cat Project, founding director for Art on the Half Shell, Middlesex Woman’s Club and was always happy to throw open the doors of Lansdowne to the community for fundraisers, house tours, weddings, engagements or just the curious traveler.
Diane’s passing leaves a hole, not only for her family, but in her beloved community of Urbanna. While not born in Urbanna, it was the place she loved from first sight and lived the longest period.
She was preceded in death by her mother and father; and son, Shawn Latham Gravatt. She leaves behind her husband of 55 years, retired Col. Arthur Broaddus Gravatt III; daughter-in-law, Jill Ann Gravatt; grandchildren, Amelia Belle Gravatt and Oliver Raymond Gravatt; and special family friend, Neal Draves; as well as numerous friends and family from all over the world.
In honor of Diane, and her desire that all enjoy her beloved home, the family would like to welcome friends and family to join us to celebrate her life and legacy at from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at Lansdowne, 271 Virginia Street, Urbanna. In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to the Urbanna Cat Project or the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society.