Amherst Magazine

John P. Griffith Jr. '38

Deceased December 26, 2008 
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John P. "Grif" Griffin Jr.

Grif, one of 13 doctors in our Class*, had a distinguished career as an orthopedic surgeon, remarkable also for a span of 10 years with the U.S. Army in two wars on both sides of the world.

Fresh from medical school and internship, Grif enlisted in WWII. Before he was through, he had served in England, France, Germany, Denmark, the Korean War, Japan and Walter Reed and other military hospitals in this country. He left the U.S. Army in 1955 with the rank of major.

After that, he practiced orthopedics mainly in Wheeling, W. Va., where he became president of the medical staff of Wheeling Hospital. He fully retired in 2001.

Grif was plagued by multiple health problems in his old age, but he kept a sense of humor about them. He listed them all in a long letter to this Class secretary in 2003, noting even that his “toenails don’t grow.” But he said he still had “a good stiff Martini daily.”

His wife, Mercy, said that in the end, after a fall, Grif had been bedridden for six months. He died Dec. 26, 2008, aged 92, at home, leaving the hospital so he could have Christmas with the family.  In a living room with a big fireplace, he spent time alone with each of his six children and six grandchildren in his last hours. 

“He had a very good life,” Mercy said.

Born in Pittsburgh, the son of a doctor, Grif prepared for Amherst at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh. In college, he won freshman numerals in swimming and was active in baseball, track and the pre-Med Club. His fraternity was Phi Gamma Delta.

He earned his medical degree from the Univ. of Pittsburgh in 1943 and interned at Mercy Hospital in that city. Following his U.S. Army career, he practiced at Ohio Valley Medical Center, Reynolds Memorial Hospital and the Wheeling Hospital. He belonged to various medical associations and was a past president of the orthopedic section of the West Virginia State Medical Association.

Besides his wife of 52 years, he left six children, John III, Martin, Jeffrey, Suzanne Higgins, James and Mark; and six grandchildren.

A brother, Charles, predeceased him.

George Bria ’38

*Henry Harvey is now the only surviving doctor in our Class. The others were Good, Horvath, Hyatt, Creese, Mayo, McGrath, Wetrich, Riemer, Bland, Weed and Whipple.

 

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