When I was 20 years old, my granddad (we called him Papa) passed away. He was 92 years old. He was the father of seven and had been married 62 years until my Grandma Griffin had passed two years prior. My dad, Jack, was the youngest of the Griffin kids. During the graveside service, it seemed like there were well over one hundred people in attendance. I knew most of the onlookers because the family get-togethers were a gracious plenty to use a grandma phrase and with six sets of aunts and uncles and all of my first cousins. The Griffins were a large group.
I remember walking back to the car and a man that I had never seen before or since made a beeline over to me and asked “was Mr. Griffin your grandfather?” After I replied “yes”, he said something that stuck with me. “Your grandfather was a great man.” And then he walked away.
My dad passed away on Thursday, June 11, 2020, just after midnight. He was 88 years old. He leaves us having been married to my mom for 59 years.
He was born in Tampa in 1931. The baby of the Griffin siblings. Unfortunately, he was the last of his siblings too.
He graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1949. Won a State Championship in basketball and track. A devoted Terrier.
After high school, he served his country in the Navy during the Korean War which paid for his college tuition at University of Tampa where he graduated with a degree in Marketing.
While working for GTE, he met and married Gayla Ivey and they had two great kids.
Blah, blah, blah
What people should know about my dad was his devotion to the Lord, to his wife, to his children, to all the people in his life and to the things he knew to be true and important. He was not a big talker. He was a sweet, quiet man with great strength and resolve. He could sand wood floors, fix electrical problems, do amazing carpentry work and never uttered a profane word even when his son hit his thumb with a hammer.
I remember when I was 19 years old and sitting on the floor watching a soccer match. One of the players lost possession for his team and I blurted out “that guy sucks”. The next thing I remember was being swat across the back of my head and my dad simply saying “don’t talk like that.” That’s all he needed to say. I wish I was like that. Instead, I go on and on and … you get the idea.
He was the type of person that was truly kind and good and was the type of role model that we all wish to be but fall short. He didn’t.
Dad taught by not using his words. Words seemingly fall short, but by quietly demonstrating every day what being a good husband, a good father, a good Christian, a good person looks like. His actions were profoundly life-shaping.
I am blessed to have been in the presence of great men like my grandfather and my dad. Generations of caring, honorable and obedient men. I continue to strive and be more like them. Frankly, I don’t know if I will ever measure up, but as dad would ask “did you try your best?”
Working on it dad. Working on it.
There are a lot of stories. I think I will write more of them so I don’t forget and so that his grandson, Jack, will have the benefit of learning more from and about his “boopa”.
For now, I am going to make a beeline to my son and tell him “your grandfather was a great man.”