Adapted from an article by Cristen Kis originally published in the Press & Guide Newspapers on December 3, 2006 in Dearborn, MI.
On November 23rd, 2006 the Great Lakes community unexpectedly bid farewell to lifelong education and environmental advocate, Don Griffin.
After serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in the Counter Intelligence Corps, Griffin began a career in education and taught at schools in Flint and at Lincoln Consolidated Schools. He received his teaching degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in child development from the University of Michigan. Griffin served as an elementary education consultant for Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency for 33 years where one of his greatest accomplishments was expanding Head Start from a summer session to an all day program during the school year.
Griffin was also instrumental in founding the two Detroit area non-profits: Friends of the Rouge River in 1986 and Friends of Detroit River in 1992.
“Don was very committed to making a difference, particularly with the Detroit River and the Great Lakes in general,” said David Howell, board chairman for the Friends of the Detroit River. “He was always thinking of ways to make things better.”
Griffin even joined forces with U.S. Congressman John Dingell to protect the Detroit River’s Humbug Marsh from development. He also went to battle over the potential reopening of a landfill not far from the river in Gibraltar.
Throughout his lifetime Griffin was presented with numerous awards – too many to count – but the two most recent awards were especially treasured by him. The 2005 Grassroots Citizen-Advocate Award from GLAHNF and the Petoskey Prize given in September, 2006. The latter, presented by the Michigan Environmental Council, recognizes citizen activists whose outstanding grassroots environmental leadership is marked by commitment, creativity and courage.
Griffin’s love for the rivers and lakes extended to include other outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. He adored his three children, Randall (Gianina), Donna and Laura (Randy), 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He loved to invent games with them, his wife said. “If I had talked to everyone, I would have said he was a good grandfather. He was very special to me and I’ll bet was very special to everyone in this room,” said Alexander, Griffin’s 8-year-old grandchild, to a roomful of family members after the funeral dinner.
Don Griffin’s family, friends and colleagues will miss many things about him — including his closing line on the telephone. “Goodbye for now,” he would always say.
And they’ve said goodbye – for now – with a celebration of his full, passionate and devoted life. Exactly as he would have wanted it.