A Life of Giving

11/15/2001 |

His father called him "the perfect son in every respect." Admiration for the adult child, however, went far beyond the perspective of a proud parent. John Griffin Jr., director of Operations at the World Trade Center for only two weeks before September 11, was a man who embraced life - both professionally and privately. As J.D. Maarleveld once commented, when explaining his brother-in-law's energy and vitality, "In his spare time, he slept."

At 6-foot, 8-inches tall, Griffin, 38, was a giant in height and heart - very giving and caring, and rarely thinking of himself. Children from every background flocked to him - a virtual kid-magnet, according to his friends, who good-naturedly nicknamed him "Barney" after the fictional purple dinosaur. Inspired by his mentoring father's career, he began his own love affair with real estate development and management in 1979; married his soul mate, June; and was blessed with two daughters, Jenna and Julie.

Griffin was co-founder of The Torch Foundation, a non-profit corporation open to all members of the real estate, facilities, contracting, and design industries in the greater New York area, which partners with children-in-need charities and offers significant donations of time, money, and service to forward its mission of "Building a Foundation for a Better Tomorrow." The timing of the foundation's inception (1989/1990) coincided with the personal loss of John and June's one-month-old son, Jonathan, to a congenital heart defect. Griffin believed the foundation's philosophy - "passing of the torch" (training children to be leaders of the next generation) - was a way to keep Jonathan's memory alive. Among many other benevolent activities, the family is also involved in Hope With Heart, an organization that offers week-long camps for children with heart conditions, and the Fresh Air Fund program, which gives urban children a chance to enjoy summer vacations away from the city.

At work, along with a ready smile, Griffin offered upbeat comments (mixed with a little trivia about cartoons and movies), yet was the first to offer his broad shoulders when comfort was needed. More importantly - whether or not the courtesy was returned - he wanted to meet and know you.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Griffin arrived to work in his office on the 88th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when the plane hit floor 89. Miraculously safe, he and a colleague evacuated a column of 25 people through the stairwell - Griffin at the rear. At some point, he stopped to help a woman overwhelmed by smoke. She lived, as did the others. Sadly, John Griffin Jr., further lending his assistance throughout the descent, did not.

Helping people was his passion - and he proved it time and again, in life as in death. His spirit remains bright among his family, friends, and colleagues. Every day, John Griffin Jr. made a difference, and he will be missed.


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