My Uncle David Griffin: An Obituary -- by Allen E. Griffin, Jr.
The nurse smiled sadly, saying, “Your uncle was such a nice man.” I thanked her, but silently asked myself, “Was he?”
David Norton Griffin of Harvard, Massachusetts, died Thursday, September 21, 2023, at the Apple Valley Center in Ayer. David Griffin was born in 1932 to Hazel Norton Griffin and Richard Kenneth Griffin. At six feet, he was the youngest and smallest of four brothers, a trim dapper man among three elephants, a childhood that made him resistant to being pushed around. David always seemed to me to be an exemplar of an old-school New England Yankee, like a character from a Robert Frost poem – taciturn, stoic, and not to be trifled with. Of course, the comparison only works if the Frost characters had a wicked sense of humor and a love of life. His friendships were few but strong.
David was one of my two favorite uncles because of his unfailing support. When I was a boy, my father, like every father since Adam, suspected his son was an idiot. (I suspect the same of my own sons, but they are good enough men to ignore my foolishness and forgive me.) David had the day off and we took my family’s boat out in Marblehead. After a few minutes, David looked at me and asked, “Do you want to drive?” I leaped at the chance and Uncle David let me drive for an hour, weaving through the boats and buoys. When my mother came home from work, we picked her up at the dock. When we had gone no more than a couple of boat lengths, David, without a word, handed the helm back to me. My mother was startled, but David reassured her, “Leave him alone. He’s alright.” That was always my relationship with my uncle.
David had a strong sense of duty, as evidenced by his service in the Navy during the Korean War and later joining my father in the Coast Guard from which David retired as an Engineer Chief Warrant Officer 3. He also served a term on the Cemetery Commission for the town of Harvard. David had a variety of interests: food, notably Cantonese Chinese and Armenian sausages. Although David did not complete his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University, he read broadly and extensively, often consuming a book per day on topics ranging from American and European history, military history, music, politics, and geography – particularly Alaska, where his beloved daughter Dawn Webster lives. He made his own wine and beer. He loved music, mostly from the 1920s to 1940s which he loved to talk about. (Sorry David, but I could never develop your love of James P. Johnson’s stride piano style.) He liked cars and he liked to drive. My earliest memories of my uncle are when he would show up to the house driving a two-seater Triumph convertible, wearing a bow tie. He was a dapper handsome man.
David had his losses, his wife, his son Peter Upton, his parents, and his brothers, but David also had his loves: New England (he could trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower), good food, his family, but above all, his late wife, Louise North Griffin. While he loved the water and the ocean, his wife’s home was Harvard to which my uncle gladly moved with her in 1969. He was lucky to find and marry the love of his life, living with her for a half-century. In looking over David’s papers recently I noticed that, although my aunt died almost 20 years ago, he kept her name on checking accounts, cable service, oil service - everything. I suspect that he could not bring himself to remove her name from any part of his life.
In thinking about David’s full life, his deep friendships, his love of his family and his bride, and what a great uncle he was, I ask myself again, “Was my Uncle David Griffin a ‘nice’ man?” No. He was much, much better than that.
A funeral service will be held for David on Monday, October 2, 2023, at 2:00 P.M. at the Badger Funeral Home, 347 King St., Littleton, MA. Burial will be private.
Arrangements under the care of Badger Funeral Home, 347 King Street, Littleton, MA 01460 978-486-3709 www.badgerfuneral.com