Norville Griffin, 78, welder and ironworker, veteran

May 20, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Norville R. "Griff" Griffin, a retired ironworker who spent eight years searching Gunpowder Falls State Park for his teen-age son, Jamie, whose remains were found in 1990, died Friday of pneumonia at his Cockeysville home. He was 78.

Mr. Griffin and his wife, Lou Ellen, held out hope throughout the 1980s that their only son, who was 17 when he disappeared, was alive.

"After they found Jamie, then I think he wasn't quite as strong," said close family friend Linda Rock. "His heart ached."

Jamie's former schoolmate, Michael Whittlesey, was convicted of first-degree murder in the case. He is serving a life sentence.

Born in Parkton, Mr. Griffin served in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II, and earned five Battle Stars for his service, said his wife of nearly 50 years, the former Lou Ellen Hinson. At the time of his death, he was a member of several veterans organizations, she said.

After his release from the Army, Mr. Griffin worked as an ironworker and welder. He retired in 1983 and devoted his time to searching for Jamie, a gifted pianist who had disappeared on April 2, 1982, weeks before his graduation from Dulaney High School.

Mr. Griffin would search two or three times a week - sometimes every day - for his son.

Jamie's body was found buried in the park in 1990.

Mrs. Griffin said she is convinced that the trauma of their son's disappearance and death at the hands of a "trusted classmate" led to Mr. Griffin's stroke in September 1996.

Mr. Griffin, a soft-spoken and generous man, was active in Grace Falls Road United Methodist Church in Reisterstown. He once gave the church money to buy a new furnace, using funds he had saved to purchase a furnace for his own home, his wife said.

"He was the sweetest man in the world," Mrs. Griffin said.

Mr. Griffin and his wife took in Linda Rock and her two sisters for a summer when their mother was in an automobile accident about three decades ago. She in turn watched out for Jamie, who was a few years younger.

Mrs. Rock, 42, who lives in Hagerstown, said she remembers Mr. Griffin as a "strong, gentle man" who would hold his arms out in a T-shape for the children to swing on.

Since February, Mr. Griffin had been in and out of Manor Care-Ruxton nursing home but wanted to remain at home. Mrs. Griffin and Mrs. Rock cared for him in his last days with the help of hospice care, spending their time singing with him and praying and talking about Jamie.

Services were Saturday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Griffin is survived by three brothers, Norwood Griffin of Randallstown, Norbert Griffin of Perry Hall and Charles Edward Griffin of Kingsville; three sisters, Nathle Stahl of Dover, Pa., Nancy McDermott of Ellicott City, and Nelda Prather of Hagerstown; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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