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Griffin, ‘Mr. Corydon,’ dies at 93

Griffin, ‘Mr. Corydon,’ dies at 93
Griffin, ‘Mr. Corydon,’ dies at 93
Fred Griffin

Frederick Porter Griffin, a man known for his love of history, died Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, at Harrison Health & Rehabilitation Centre in Corydon. He was 93.
‘He was often referred to as Mr. Corydon,’ said Fred Cammack, Corydon’s town council president, who spoke at Griffin’s funeral Sunday afternoon at Corydon Presbyterian Church, where Griffin had been a member since Feb. 22, 1925. ‘He was a wealth of information.’
Cammack and James Goldman, chair of the Harrison County Commissioners, had ordered flags at government buildings in the county be flown at half-staff on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in honor of Griffin. The Corydon Post Office also flew its flag at half-staff.
A native of Corydon, Griffin had ‘extensive knowledge’ of Corydon’s downtown area, Cammack said, and was often helpful in providing information.
Griffin began assembling his own collection of local genealogy and history when he was about 13 and served as the self-appointed county historian until the early 1990s, when he was officially appointed to serve in that capacity. Many of the news articles he accumulated over the years were compiled into two volumes of books, called ‘History of Corydon and Harrison County Indiana, A Scrapbook of Newspaper Clippings,’ and he put together genealogical files on more than 900 Harrison County families.
‘His voice rings through each of the pages just as if you’re sitting next to him,’ said Patrick Hart, a nephew of Griffin’s. ‘Fred made (history) come alive … He presented history and taught me my place in it.’
In 2003, the library renamed the old Carnegie library the Frederick Porter Griffin Center for Local History and Genealogy.
After earning a degree from Indiana University in 1939, Griffin taught at Paoli and Corydon high schools and eventually ran the family’s store, Maurice Griffin and Co. Dry Goods, until 1983.
‘It wasn’t a fancy store,’ recalled Clarinda Pitts of Corydon, who was hired as a high school student to work for Griffin, although Griffin had confided to her on her first day that he had ‘wanted a boy’ for an employee.
Griffin ‘carried the kind of merchandise people wanted’ and knew what sizes to stock for many of his regular customers.
One of Pitts’ favorite memories of working with Griffin was going to Louisville to make purchases for the store.
‘He had a little bit of a sweet tooth,’ she said, recalling how they would buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the way back to Corydon and eat most of them while they were still warm.
‘The man who started as my boss, became my sometimes dad, my mentor and my friend,’ she said, adding that Griffin gave her away at her wedding.
Sharon Simpson of Corydon talked about Griffin’s friendships.
‘He went above and beyond to be a friend,’ she said. ‘He was gracious and kind.’
Simpson recalled the 90th birthday party held in Griffin’s honor.
‘And when Fred found out people had to pay to attend the dinner, he said, ‘Now we’ll see who my friends really are’, ‘ she said.
In addition to history, family and his church, his farm, in southern Harrison County, known as Porter’s Point, was another important aspect of his life.
A visit to the farm was like stepping back in time, said Kate Shine, a niece, who also recalled the friendly family rivalry revolving around Indiana and Purdue universities.
‘He taught us to value family time together,’ she said, adding that what matters most in a person’s life is what takes place during that ‘dash’ that’s placed between a person’s date of birth and date of death.
Mike Coggeshall, a district forester who met Griffin in July 1977 after he moved to the county, said, ‘The woods Fred started with were not very encouraging, not much to look at.’
However, the property, along the southern end of Harrison County has ‘a view to kill for’ of the Ohio River and Kentucky shoreline, he said.
Griffin ‘always carried pruning tools’ and other small hand tools while at the farm, and his son, Patrick, ‘was usually involved but not usually on a voluntary basis,’ Coggeshall said.
But, through ‘sheer will and time,’ Griffin was able to transform what he had into ‘quite a forest,’ said the district forester, and Griffin was honored with an award for his efforts.
‘I could always count on learning more about history than Fred learned about forestry,’ Coggeshall said.
Near the conclusion of the funeral, the church bell tolled 93 times, once for each year of Griffin’s life, as he had requested prior to his death. The Rev. Scott Hill, pastor at Corydon Presbyterian Church, said Griffin had also left other instructions for his funeral, including the choosing of the hymns and pre-service music.
Among the hymns that were sung Sunday were old traditional ones, such as ‘Our God, Our Help in Ages Past’ and ‘How Great Thou Art,’ and Griffin included a more modern one that is a favorite at CPC, ‘Here I Am, Lord.’
‘Fred appreciated people, no matter their station in life,’ said Hill, who also made note prior to the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer how Griffin said the prayer in German each Sunday.
Hill concluded the service by saying, ‘Fred’s work is done and is passed on to us.’
Griffin was born April 7, 1915, the son of the late Maurice and Charlotte Rupp Griffin.
He also was a former employee of Winston Brothers Construction Co. in Charlestown, served on the Corydon Public Library board from 1967 to 1975 and from 1983 to 1991, the Corydon State Bank Board of Directors, the Cedar Hill Cemetery Board of Regents, the Corydon Board of School Trustees and the Harrison County Sesquicentennial Committee, was president of the Harrison County Historical Society, was a former elder and trustee of Corydon Presbyterian Church and was a member of Pisgah Lodge 32 F&AM in Corydon.
Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor Ashton Griffin, on Nov. 22, 2000.
Survivors include a son, Patrick Ashton Griffin of Corydon.
The funeral was Sunday at his church with burial in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Corydon. The Rev. Scott Hill officiated, and organist was Mary Vessels. Pallbearers were Will Shine, John Marc Ashton, Bruce Klonowski, Patrick Hart, Kevin Crosier, Gary Dum, Thomas O. Funk and Bob Biddle. Honorary pallbearer was Emil Miller. Beanblossom-Cesar Funeral Home in Corydon handled arrangements.
The family suggests memorial gifts to his church, the donor’s favorite charity or by doing a kind deed for someone.