Ed Griffiths died at his Brooklyn, NY, home on September 4, 1987, of tuberculosis complicated by human immuno-deficiency virus infection. Though not the first Amherst alumnus to suffer from AIDS, Ed knew that the disease has rarely, if ever, been mentioned in these columns and wanted to be sure it was indicated in his case. This terrible epidemic striking so many talented men and women before their time has taken a dear friend and valued contemporary from us.
Ed was born in Salem, OH, on March 12,1941, the oldest child of Arwyn and Mary Kovasch Griffiths. He was a graduate of Western ReserveAcademy. At Amherst, Ed majored in English and graduated cum laude; his senior thesis on Yeats won the award for the best honors thesis of his year. Ed sang in the Glee Club and, as part of the movement away from fraternities in the 1960s that began with his Class, was an independent. After Amherst, Ed went to New York, where he made his home for the rest of his life. He did graduate work in English at NYU and in psychology at the NewSchool. Ed’s chief work was in social services and editing. He was employed in various capacities over the years by the Experiment in International Living and by the New York City Departments of Social Services and Housing Preservation; most recently, he had worked as a freelance editor. Ed’s avocation, which often took up more energy and time than even his paying work was community organizing and politics. One of his proudest achievements was his service during the last years as coordinator of his building’s tenants committee, where he led its successful rent strike, the first ever won, against Leonard Spodek, the infamous New York “Dracula” landlord. Ed was also an active member of Amherst GALA, the gay and lesbian alumni/ae group.
Ed was predeceased by his parents and by his brother, David. He is survived by his brother, Tom, of Dallas; his aunt, Patricia Tressler, of Salem; several nieces and nephews in Ohio and California; his dear friend and neighbor, Pat Shea; and his lover of twenty-one years, Sam Bailum, who nursed him until the end. In several basic ways, Ed was and remained an outsider. He came from a working-class background to the elite environment of Amherst, the first in his family to attend college, and was a homosexual in a dominantly heterosexual culture. But these factors became a source of strength for Ed. They gave him an unerring eye for sham and an intense sensitivity and tenacious opposition to injustice, qualities that were sometimes belied by his slight frame, quiet manner, and witty sense of the absurd. Ed also had a great gift for friendship and for attentiveness in relationships. Old friends retain his famous long letters written over the years and remember his remarkable ability as a listener. Truly interested in what you had to say, he could ask the most intelligent and pertinent questions, drawing out the best in you without calling attention to himself and making you feel that you were one of the most interesting people he had ever met. He left too soon and will be sorely missed.
Joseph Cady ‘60
William Noonan’ 63