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Published: Saturday, 11/25/2000

Retired president of Lasalle's gave time to symphony

John H. Griffin, a retired Macy's executive and jazz aficionado, died yesterday at his home of complications from cancer surgery he had in August. He was 83.

Mr. Griffin, of Perrysburg, was known as much for his community involvement as he was for his affiliation with one of the world's most famous department store chains.

He served on Toledo Symphony governing boards and advisory panels since moving to the area in 1968, and was chairman of Toledo Hospital's board during an eight-year period when the hospital had a major expansion and became the biggest member of a new group, ProMedica Health System.

“He loved his work for the hospital and the symphony,” Abby Overholt, Mr. Griffin's daughter, said.

In addition, Mr. Griffin was once a board member of the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce and Bostwick-Braun Co.

Born in Wallingford, Conn., Mr. Griffin was the first member of his immediate family who went to high school or college.

He worked his way through Wesleyan University in Connecticut, largely by playing tenor saxophone and clarinet. He graduated in 1938, and shortly thereafter joined the famed Macy's Training Squad.

While employed by R.H. Macy & Co. during his first tenure, he was buyer for the men's department and buyer for the nation's largest toy department.

In 1942, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a supply officer and attended Harvard Business School. The following year, he married his wife, Patricia, and was sent on assignment with Fleet Air Wing Two in the Pacific Theater. His wife died in 1992.

After the war, Mr. Griffin returned to Macy's and eventually became a vice president. In 1967, he was named president of R.H. Macy & Co.'s Toledo division, known at the time as Lasalle & Koch Co. It later became Macy's Midwest.

Mr. Griffin was proud of the accomplishments of his children.

Mrs. Overholt is a nurse and her brother, John, is chief executive officer of Hearst Magazines International. Another brother, Peter, is deputy editor of Esquire magazine.

Another brother, Philip, an executive producer for MSNBC, said he was impressed that his father remained intellectually sharp and stimulated by current events up until his death.

“The beauty about my father was he just loved life. He was just as interested in 2000 as he was 1936,” he said.

Bob Bell, Toledo Symphony president and chief executive officer, described Mr. Griffin as a courteous and sensitive man who was straightforward.

“Jack was a very thoughtful and articulate person who was extremely kind,” Mr. Bell said.

He was known as a devoted father and doting grandfather, someone who had no qualms about flying to New York for a grandchild's birthday party.

“He loved celebrations,” Philip Griffin said.

One of his best friends was Bill Bass, a retired vice president of merchandising, sales, and promotion for Champion Spark Plug. The two were friends for almost 35 years, seeing each other almost weekly.

“He was a bright, gregarious, energetic, inquisitive individual. Jack never got old,” Mr. Bass said.

Mr. Bass said Mr. Griffin was so active it was hard to keep up with him. “He really creates a hole in my life with his passing,” he said. “He was really fun to be with.”

Survivors include daughter Abby Overholt; sons John, Peter, and Philip, and seven grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Perrysburg. Arrangements are being done by Witzler-Shank Funeral Home. There is no visitation.

The family suggests memorials be made to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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