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Griffin, 'Mr. Corydon,' dies at 93

November 05, 2008
Frederick Porter Griffin, a man known for his love of history, died Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, at Harrison Health and Rehabilitation Centre in Corydon. He was 93.

Fred Griffin
"He was often referred to as Mr. Corydon," said Fred Cammack, Corydon's town council president, who spoke at Griffin's funeral Sunday afternoon at Corydon Presbyterian Church, where Griffin had been a member since Feb. 22, 1925. "He was a wealth of information."

Cammack and James Goldman, chair of the Harrison County Commissioners, had ordered flags at government buildings in the county be flown at half-staff on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in honor of Griffin. The Corydon Post Office also flew its flag at half-staff.

A native of Corydon, Griffin had "extensive knowledge" of Corydon's downtown area, Cammack said, and was often helpful in providing information.

Griffin began assembling his own collection of local genealogy and history when he was about 13 and served as the self-appointed county historian until the early 1990s, when he was officially appointed to serve in that capacity. Many of the news articles he accumulated over the years were compiled into two volumes of books, called "History of Corydon and Harrison County Indiana, A Scrapbook of Newspaper Clippings," and he put together genealogical files on more than 900 Harrison County families.

In 2003, the library renamed the old Carnegie library the Frederick Porter Griffin Center for Local History and Genealogy.

After earning a degree from Indiana University in 1939, Griffin taught at Paoli and Corydon high schools and eventually ran the family's store, Maurice Griffin and Co. Dry Goods, until 1983.

"It wasn't a fancy store," recalled Clarinda Pitts of Corydon, who was hired as a high school student to work for Griffin. "He carried the kind of merchandise people wanted ...

"The man who started as my boss, became my sometimes dad, my mentor and my friend," she said, adding that Griffin gave her away at her wedding.

In addition to history, family and his church, his farm, in southern Harrison County, known as Porter's Point, was another important aspect of his life.

"The woods Fred started with were not very encouraging, not much to look at," said Mike Coggeshall, a district forester who met Griffin in July 1977 after he moved to the county.

But, through "sheer will and time," Griffin was able to transform what he had into "quite a forest," Coggeshall said, and was honored with an award for his efforts.

Near the conclusion of the funeral, the church bell tolled 93 times, once for each year of Griffin's life, as he had requested prior to his death. He also had left other instructions for his funeral, including the choosing of the hymns and pre-service music for the service.

Griffin was born April 7, 1915, the son of the late Maurice and Charlotte Rupp Griffin.

He also was a former employee of Winston Brothers Construction Co. in Charlestown, served on the Corydon Public Library board from 1967 to 1975 and from 1983 to 1991, the Corydon State Bank Board of Directors, the Cedar Hill Cemetery Board of Regents and the Harrison County Sesquicentennial Committee, was president of the Harrison County Historical Society, was a former elder and trustee of Corydon Presbyterian Church and was a member of Pisgah Lodge 32 F&AM in Corydon.

Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor Ashton Griffin, on Nov. 22, 2000.

Survivors include a son, Patrick Ashton Griffin of Corydon.

The funeral was Sunday, Nov. 2, at his church with burial in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Corydon. The Rev. Scott Hill officiated, and organist was Mary Vessels. Pallbearers were Will Shine, John Marc Ashton, Bruce Klonowski, Patrick Hart, Kevin Crosier, Gary Dum, Thomas O. Funk and Bob Biddle. Honorary pallbearer was Emil Miller. Beanblossom-Cesar Funeral Home in Corydon handled arrangements.

The family suggests memorial gifts to his church, the donor's favorite charity or by doing a kind deed for someone.

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