Thursday, March 01, 2012

109 Years Ago


Confession: originally written in 2/28/2002


The picture to the left was taken in 1964 and is of Charlotte Hill Griffith (1924 - 2011), M.G. Wiggins (age 18), Warren Holmes Griffith (1903 - 1981). We were at our then summer home in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. I loved this log-sided cabin and the summers spent there with my parents are full of fond memories.
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On February 28, 1903 Warren Holmes Griffith was born to Gertrude and William E. Griffith in Lawrence, Kansas. Gertrude Holmes was W.E.’s second wife, his first wife having died leaving him with two sons to raise, Richard and Alfred. Alfred had a deformity (hunchback), and because in those days little was done for such children, he was never able to move away from home and live a normal life. Shortly after the second marriage, the small family moved to Kansas City, KS. They had one more son after Warren, William E. Griffith, Jr.

In Warren’s 20’s the family moved across the state line to Kansas City, MO. Warren reported that the family lived a happy life though they never had much money. W.E. sold insurance and Gertrude took care of the boys. Warren put himself through journalism school and graduated from Kansas University in 1926. After working for several small town newspapers across the state of Kansas, he went to work for the Kansas City Times and Star newspapers.

Alfred died in young adulthood and Richard moved to Texas and the family lost touch with him. Bill Griffith, the youngest brother, also a KU graduate, worked in the television industry in Kansas City until his retirement in the 1970’s.

Warren married Charlotte Hill in 1946 at the age of 42. His bride was only 20. They produced a daughter six months after the wedding and no one has ever acknowledged the clear truth about the marriage or the conception of the child, claiming that the eight + pound baby girl was born prematurely.

Eventually with his wife and daughter Warren moved into his family home on the South Side of Kansas City. Warren retired in 1972 from the Kansas City Star, the only newspaper to survive in Kansas City. He loved the job he had held for 43 years and it nearly broke his heart to be forced to leave it.

He lived his last years in the mountains around Pikes Peak, in the same cabin where his family had summered since 1907. In 1981 he died at the age of 78 of colon cancer.

Warren was a smart, funny, satirical man. Moreover, he had a kind, gentle heart. He loved to write. He collected books on the Civil War and old time steam trains. The only instrument he could play was the harmonica, but he loved music, from classical to western (far different from country – think “Clear, Cool Water” as opposed to country twang). He enjoyed travel immensely but since his wife hated it, never really got to travel very much in his later years.

In 1948 he joined the United Methodist Church and was very active in both Kansas City and in the only church in his little mountain town of less than 500, the Church in the Wildwood. One of his proudest moments was being selected to ring the church bell for the bi-centennial celebration when the nations bells were tolled simultaneously on July 4, 1976. He was both a Republican and a staunch patriot. Flag Day never went by without his flying a 48 star flag from his porch (why buy a new flag when the old one was good enough?).

People liked being with Warren. They enjoyed his company and the stories he would tell. They often laughed in his presence. He especially enjoyed puns. He was an extremely patient man and people innately understood his overpowering sense of decency.

One child, a daughter, survives him.

Warren would have turned 109 in 2012. May his kind heart and sense of humor be conveyed to those now reading about him. And most especially, may those who knew and loved him, remember his good qualities and celebrate his essence.

Daddy, I still love you. I will always miss you. Happy Belated Birthday.

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This picture was taken in 1979 at Thanksgiving in Green Mountain Falls, after my parents had moved there to live. It was the only holiday I ever was allowed to spend with my parents after their 1973 move from Kansas City. Hubby is taking the picture -- he was invited to attend since the dinner was being held at the Barber's cabin (where this photo was shot). Mother and I are at the far left (white sweater for Mom, brown blouse for me; Dad is in the red sweater at the far right).


1 comment:

Donna said...

Wow, I love this little story and the pictures. Much of the story is between the lines.