James Lewis Griffith, age 89, of Essex, Connecticut, formerly of Novelty, Missouri, died Friday, November 5, 2010, in Essex, Connecticut.
He was born March 26, 1921, in Novelty, Missouri at the home of his parents, Thomas Gidney and Emma Jane Fisher Griffith.
He grew up on this farm and attended the Novelty School, graduating as class president of the High School in 1939. He went on to study business at Northeast Missouri State Teacher’s College, now Truman State University, where he met his wife to be, Vida V. Putman. His schooling was interrupted by World War II, as he entered into four years of active military duty serving in the Army Air Corps, and awarded four bronze stars for Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaigns. When he returned safely from war, surviving a plane crash, he and Vida began 62 years of marriage on March 10, 1945. Starting their life together in St. Louis, Lewis graduated with a degree in Business and Public Administration from Washington University in 1947, going on to earn a CPA degree from the University of Illinois. They began a family once settled in Salem, Illinois, where Lewis worked as an accountant, auditor, tax advisor and management consultant for a state-wide Illinois CPA firm. In 1961, he felt the call to service again, joining the U.S. Department of State Agency for International Development (USAID) as a Foreign Service Officer. Over the next 20 years, he was proud to say he’d had his passport stamped in over 90 developing nations of the world, traveling to live with his family in Ghana, Brazil, Guatemala, Kenya, Panama, Miami, Florida, and Washington, D.C. He loved new places and working with local people, bearing up under sometimes primitive conditions for his family, surviving tropical diseases, and very often political strife and adversity in their host countries. Travel nurtured his love of people and sharing their stories, pastimes, favorite food and places, always learning new things. His USAID work was to supervise audit activities on U.S. Assistance throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, responsible for planning and directing AID programs for 41 countries in Africa and Western Europe. Throughout his life he maintained frequent contact with embassy aides and military officials throughout the World. In 1975 he received recognition for Outstanding Contribution and Service in Assisting the National Association of Minority Certified Public Accounting Firms.
Retiring to Missouri in 1979, he and Vida returned home from Nairobi, Kenya, to design and build their dream home in Novelty on the same farm where Lewis was born. He continued to manage his personal business as well as some for free, volunteering to do accounting for those who needed and asked. He pursued his beloved pastimes of fishing, planting vegetables, growing lots of plants and trees, becoming Missouri State Tree Farmer and finding new interests in land conservation and wildlife management. He never lost his love of travel, seeing more of the U.S., the National Parks and Alaska.
He was a devoted husband and caregiver to Vida who preceded him in 2007, and a nurturing, loving and supportive father to children Roger Griffith of Novelty, Missouri and Anita Griffith of Connecticut, who survive him. He spent the last three and a half years living near Anita in Connecticut, close to Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River, traveling back to his Missouri home when health permitted.
Funeral services were Monday, November 8, 2010, at the Hudson-Rimer Funeral Home. Reverend Tresia Griffith officiated the services. Burial was in the Novelty Cemetery. Music was provided by Lila Hilgeford, soloist and Carol Hayes, organist. Casket bearers were Byron Harder, Mike Franke, Mike Conley, Tom Deveny, Bim Parsons and Ted Hilgeford. Honorary bearer were Richard Griffith.
Memorials may be made to Novelty-Plevna Fire Department. Memorials may be left at or mailed to Hudson-Rimer Funeral Home, P.O. Box 1, Edina, Missouri, 63537.