Anne Hungerford Griffis
Health care administrator, advocate for peace and justice
Anne Hungerford Griffis died peacefully on November 10, 2014, surrounded by her devoted family. She was 77. Cherished by her family and friends, she brought light, peace, compassion and laughter to everyone around her
She was born in 1937 in Madison, New Jersey to Clark and Katherine Hungerford, who in the 1950s founded Hungerford Insurance in Claremont. She attended Pomona College where she majored in sociology, as well as Chicago Theological Seminary. She later received a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University.
Anne showed a strong social conscience early on, so her major was a perfect fit, according to her brother Frank Hungerford.
“She was really ambitious in her late teens to learn about what makes the world tick,” he said. “The beautiful thing is she had parents willing to let her do this kind of exploration.”
To that end, she worked for a summer in a mental hospital in Oregon when she was in college.
“It was a pretty heavy-duty institution, with everything that brings,” Mr. Hungerford said. “It was a real eye-opener to her as to how we were taking care of the mentally ill. It was a time when most people who were really sick wound up institutionalized with very little hope of getting out again.”
Her junior year, she attended a semester at the all-black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, an unprecedented move in the 1950s.
“She learned about people’s civil rights, and civil rights weren’t really being talked about at the time,” Mr. Hungerford said.
Longtime Claremont resident Marilee Scaff met Anne when she was a high school student. Ms. Scaff got to know Anne further when she was a student of her husband Alvin Scaff, who taught sociology at Pomona College. The Scaffs were very involved in Anne’s decision to go to Fisk.
“Anne was both determined and courageous,” Ms. Scaff said. “Adventurous is too light a word to use for it. She became committed to things that she thought were important, and then she needed to do them.”
While in Chicago, Anne met her beloved husband, Richard Bridgman Griffis, a minister in the United Church of Christ, to whom she was married for 52 years.
From 1974 until retirement in 1999, Mrs. Griffis was a health care administrator for Medicaid in Rockland County, New York and then for the state of Connecticut. From 1970-1972, the couple and their two young sons, Roger and Geoffrey, moved from Minnesota to Nigeria to lead relief work with the American Friends Service Committee. Mr. and Mrs. Griffis moved to Washington, DC in 2003 to be near Roger and Geoffrey and their families.
Throughout her life, Anne blended a passion for the visual arts and music with advocacy for peace, justice and the integrity of creation. She sang, played the piano and flute and composed music until the last days of her life. She was an avid traveler, stargazer, poetry reader, gardener and genealogist, and shared all these enthusiasms with her family.
Anne believed deeply in civic and global responsibility, and acted on these beliefs throughout her life, including leadership roles with Church Women United, The United Nations Association and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
As he prepares to speak at his sister’s memorial service, Mr. Hungerford has created a list of words that describe his sister. The words—“opinionated, positioned, organized, thorough, compassionate and humanist”—paint a picture of a unique individual.
Her longtime friend echoes this sentiment.
“Anne was a really powerful human being,” Ms. Scaff said. “She was very devoted to people, to making life better for them, and to helping resolve all kinds of social conflicts.”
Mrs. Griffis is survived by her loving sons, Roger Bridgman Griffis and Geoffrey Houck Griffis; by her devoted daughters-in-law, Donna Wieting and Claire Bloch; and by her grandchildren, Rya, Mateo, Danny, Jonah and Eli, all of whom brought her great joy. She is also survived by her brother Frank Hungerford and his wife Jeanne Kennedy, and many adoring nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service celebrating Anne’s life will be held on Saturday, December 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the First Congregational Church, UCC at 945 G Street, NW Washington, DC.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the music program at the First Congregational Church, UCC at 945 G Street, NW Washington, DC.