Longtime Oak Park resident Redd Griffin dies
Longtime Oak Park resident Redd Griffin died this week, his family said.
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:15AM
Longtime Oak Park resident and civic volunteer Redd Griffin died Tuesday while at Oak Park Hospital, his family has announced.
Griffin, who would have celebrated his 74th birthday Dec. 3, wore many hats in his lifetime, including teacher, soldier, state legislator, journalist, historian and patriot.
However, in a May 2012 interview with the Oak Leaves, he said he believed his most important role was that of student, both of history and of his own life. The Triton College philosophy teacher said he sought answers more than conclusions, that for him, the past is prologue.
“The past is very relevant to the present,” Griffin said. “I want to keep the continuity with the past alive.”
A former soldier who served in Germany, Griffin was an ardent patriot who was a fixture at annual wreath laying ceremonies at the Peace Triumphant monument in Scoville Park.
In May, he was honored as one of “60 Over 60” area seniors who continue to participate in and contribute to the area’s civic life. The group was feted on May 10 at the 19th Century Charitable Association for their continuing involvement in their communities.
Griffin said at the time he believed there is no reason people of all ages can’t give of themselves in some useful manner.
“The old saying is charity is about time, talent and treasure,” he said. “If people don’t have treasure, they can give of their time and talent.”
Griffin saw the aging process in that same positive light, saying that as he aged, life got better for him.
“I feel more involved, better prepared, more optimistic than I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said.
A former reporter for the Chicago News Bureau, Griffin said he has always valued listening. Though a political conservative, he prided himself both on having strong values and respect for opposing views, and steadfastly refused to close the door on new ideas.
He bemoaned people so often coming too quickly to hard and fast conclusions that, he said, stifled genuine debate.
“I’m conservative and Catholic, but not in a way you’d imagine,” he said. “I’m not a knee-jerk anything.”
Griffin also served one term as a state representative in the Illinois Legislator in the 1980s.
He was a founding member of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and served as its president in the mid-80s.
John W. Berry, chairman of the Hemingway Foundation, called Griffin “a huge presence” within the foundation, and called his passing “a huge loss for the Hemingway Foundation in particular and the world in general.”
Griffin, he said, was the “intellectual content anchor” of the foundation, a person with “big, interesting ideas.”
It was Griffin, Berry said, who was the driving force behind a four-year foundation collaboration with various civic and arts organizations to celebrate the four main periods of Hemingway’s life, from journalist to novelist to world traveler to the arts.
Griffin’s “amazing, encyclopedic mind” aside, Berry said, Griffin had a distinctive personal warmth.
“He was an extremely generous person, a kind man in every conceivable way,” said Berry. “We’re going to miss him a lot.”
Griffin was the husband of Mary Jo; the father of Daniel (Sarah) and Timothy Griffin; the grandfather of James and Reid Griffin; and the brother of Michael Griffin and Marnie (Joseph) Fretty.
Visitation will be from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St., Oak Park.
The funeral will be held at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in River Forest at 10 a.m. Nov. 27.
Interment will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. Griffin’s family asks that those seeking to honor him support their favorite local charity.