Jean E. Griffith

October 22, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • This photograph of Jean Griffith was taken about four years ago.
Submitted photo

Editor's note:  Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered"  is about Jean E. Griffith who died Oct. 10 at the age of 82. Her obituary was published in the Oct. 12, 2011, edition of The Herald-Mail.

For those who knew her well, Jean Griffith was her given name, but "Grandma" is what they called her. Even her pastor at Boonsboro Family Worship Center, where she was a lifetime member, called her that.  

"She was well-liked. She would do anything at all for anybody," said oldest daughter, Nancy Lapole, of Hagerstown.

Jean Rowe grew up in Frederick County and was 17 when she married Elmer "Pete" Griffith of Keedysville. Pete was nine years older than his bride and they were married 55 years when he died in 2001.

Pete never saw the need for an indoor bathroom as long as they had an outhouse, so it wasn't until after he died that Jean had a bathroom put in their house in Mount Lena, Nancy said.

Neither Jean nor Pete graduated from high school, but both worked hard to support their eight children — two daughters and six sons. There are 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

After Pete died, Nancy's husband, Ralph, went to help his mother-in-law chop wood, something he wasn't used to doing.

"Man, can she chop some wood," Nancy said her husband remarked, noting that he had a small pile of wood compared to Jean's large pile.

The Griffiths raised their family in the Mapleville, Boonsboro and Mount Lena areas. Pete was a farm laborer and worked for a concrete company.

"Mom was a homemaker until my baby brother was born. Then she went out to London Fog and got her first job," Nancy said.

Jean was a coat examiner at Londontowne Manufacturing in Boonsboro and retired after 28 years, when that facility closed.

Not one to sit idle, Jean got a job when Sheetz opened at the corner of U.S. 40 and Mapleville Road near Boonsboro. She worked there 13 years.

Jean's last job was at the day care center at Boonsboro Christian Academy, the school run by her church, where she worked until about 18 months ago when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

"She went to church. She was a faithful Christian," said Nancy, who noted that Pastor Jack Payne at Boonsboro Family Worship Center said it took three people to do the work Jean did by herself.

Jean was a good cook and baker, Nancy said. She was known for the steamers she made each Boonesborough Days for the church food stand and for the java she brewed as a coffee hostess at Sheetz.

"Nobody else could make coffee like her. That's what they said," Nancy said.

Jean's black walnut cookies, made with a family recipe that's been passed down through generations, were also a favorite and one that Nancy still makes.

One of Nancy's favorite memories is of the family butchering five to seven hogs on Thanksgiving day, a tradition that ended about 20 years ago. Jean's mother used to clean the casings, then when she passed away, Jean took on that job.

"Those were the big days. I miss them myself. It's been many, many years, but I miss it," Nancy said.

She also remembers as a child helping pick the potatoes out of the garden her parents planted.

Nancy said her mother kept her eight children "in line" and adored her grandchildren.

"She loved 'em all. She made them listen when she had them at the house. She loved them all the same," Nancy said.

Jean was also known for her honesty.

"She'd tell you the truth, whether it hurt your feelings or not. She wouldn't back away. Even if they disliked what she said, they still loved her," Nancy said.

After Pete's death, Nancy said her mother was asked out on dates, but she was particular.

"None of them lived up to her standards. They had to go to church, and no smoking or drinking," Nancy said.

Jean loved her animals. Her Shih Tzu, Sparky, and cat, Sassy, are now part of Nancy's family, which also includes a dog and a cat.

Going to yard sales and eating out were other favorites of hers.

Jean had survived breast cancer about 13 years ago. This time, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer about 18 months before she died. It had spread to her lymph nodes.

Nancy said chemotherapy just about killed her mother, so she was switched to radiation treatments instead.

"She always kept a pretty positive attitude until the end. The last two weeks, she started saying she was tired. She was in a lot of pain. She knew," Nancy said.

During her illness, Jean lived with her grandniece, then several of her sons, and the last few months lived with Nancy and Ralph. The Lapoles' daughter also helped care for her grandmother so she was never alone.

Jean had a bell to ring if she needed anything.

"Sometimes, I can still hear that bell," Nancy said.

Nancy said Jean had cared for her husband as he suffered from congestive heart failure, then one of her sons, who died of cancer at age 54. Now, it was her turn to be cared for.  

"She was a good woman. I couldn't have asked for a better mother," Nancy said.

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