GRIFFIN, John Phillip ("Jack"), passed away January 16, 2014 at age 89. Jack was a singular force for public service, charity, and good works throughout his life. He was born September 26, 1924, and grew up in Seminole Heights with his parents, Sybil and James, older brother Jim, and younger sister, Pat. After graduating Hillsborough High School in 1942, Jack enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre as a hospital corpsman. He was stationed on an amphibious landing force ship, which supported landings on several Pacific islands, including Okinawa. After his honorable discharge, Jack enrolled at the University of Florida, graduating in 1949. That same year he married Marilyn Emerson, who was his wife for 60 years until her death in 2010. To the end, he remained a steadfast member of the Gator nation and an immensely proud alumnus. Jack then served Hillsborough County for several years as an educator and administrator, including at Plant, Turkey Creek, and Hillsborough High Schools. He retired from teaching in 1956. After an unsuccessful City Council run, newly elected Mayor Julian Lane appointed Jack his Chief Administrative Assistant and later as Director of City Purchasing. Jack earned his law degree from the Stetson in 1965 and entered private practice in Tampa. In 1979 Jack followed his true civic calling and was elected to the Hillsborough Circuit Court bench. He sat on the court with distinction for ten years, drawing special praise from both prosecutors and defense attorneys as even-handed and fair-minded in criminal proceedings. Jack was inseparable from the natural world at an early age. He was a founding member of the River Rats, a group of boys who lived along the Hillsborough River enjoying its full bounty and performing random shenanigans and acts of chicanery. Jack traveled the country and the world with Marilyn. In one three-month period he rafted the Colorado River and climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The central focus of Jack's life always was, and remained, service to others. Every holiday period he worked endless hours to bring food to the poor and hungry. He especially enjoyed participating in, and often leading, the charitable activities of his beloved Tampa East Sertoma Club, whose members were a pillar of strength, comfort, and love during his final days. In addition to his wife, Jack was preceded in death by his son, John Phillip, Jr. He is survived by his son Chris and his sister, Pat Chavous. He also has four adoring grandchildren, Heather and John Philip Griffin, III, both of Gainesville; Jennifer Bush of Tampa; and Christopher Griffin, Jr., of Williamsburg, VA. A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22, Seminole Heights United Methodist Church, with family visitation to follow in the Church Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the United Cerebral Palsy Tampa Bay/Jack Griffin Memorial Fund (2215 East Henry Ave., Tampa, FL 33610, attn.: Sally Santos).
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Published in TBO.com on Jan. 19, 2014