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Lillian Griffin, civic leader and tireless volunteer, dies at 99

She was an active member of the Republican party for decades, and served in leadership roles with the American Red Cross and other health-care organizations.

Mrs. Griffin (left), posing here with Barbara Bush, was active with the Republican Party mostly at the local and state levels.
Mrs. Griffin (left), posing here with Barbara Bush, was active with the Republican Party mostly at the local and state levels.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Lillian Griffin, 99, formerly of Drexel Hill, a longtime elected Pennsylvania Republican committeewoman for Delaware County and a relentless volunteer and philanthropist, died Friday, Oct. 29, of kidney failure at her home at the Springfield Senior Commons assisted living residence.

Known for her sunny disposition and fierce dedication to her neighbors and many civic organizations, Mrs. Griffin served Delaware County as a state committeewoman for 70 years. She was particularly active with Republican politics and health-care issues, working in volunteer leadership roles with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the American Red Cross, Delaware County Memorial Hospital, Crozer Health, and others.

She also served on the Upper Darby Board of Health in the 1980s and ’90s. “My husband always called me a professional volunteer,” she told the News of Delaware County in a profile. “Volunteering can be very, very rewarding. As a consumer, I like to see the needs are met.”

In politics, she was active with the Pennsylvania Federation of Republican Women, the Delaware County Republican Women’s Committee, and the women’s Republican club in Upper Darby. She also held leadership roles with the Foundation for Delaware County, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, several garden clubs, and other civic groups.

“She was an example to us all,” said longtime friend Corliss Boggs. “She was dedicated to her community and directed her energy to everybody else. She was one of those people who saw her glass as always half full.”

Mrs. Griffin received many commendations and honors over her career in politics and volunteering. The U.S. House of Representatives sent her a flag it flew over the Capitol on Nov. 3, 2004, to acknowledge her “dedicated, faithful and tireless service.”

She also got personal notes of appreciation and congratulations from Sens. Hugh Scott and Arlen Specter, Rep. Curt Weldon, and State Sen. Joe Loeper.

The Pennsylvania State Senate honored Mrs. Griffin in 2004 after she was given the Golden Elephant Award by the Delaware County Republican Women’s Committee, writing that she “has earned the deep and enduring respect of all those who have benefitted from her tireless devotion to the betterment of her community.”

In 1970, she was recognized as the longtime chair of nursing programs for the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Red Cross, and the National Association of Professional Women cited her for “outstanding excellence and dedication to her profession and the achievement of women” in 2015.

“She was always going to meetings,” said her niece, Cheryl Williamson. “People always talked about how welcoming she was.”

Born Dec. 28, 1921, Mrs. Griffin was raised in Upper Darby. Her mother, Lucinda Hummel, who lived into her 100s, was an energetic community volunteer, and Mrs. Griffin followed in her wake. She graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1940, married Norman Griffin in 1943, and lived in the same house in Drexel Hill for 71 years. Her husband died in 1999.

Energetic and eager to help, Mrs. Griffin arranged block parties and activities for the neighborhood children. She was so visible around Drexel Hill that folks called her the honorary mayor.

She won awards for her entries to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and she and her husband danced so well together they were invited to appear on the popular Arthur Murray Party TV show in the 1950s. She bowled at Sproul Lanes in Springfield into her 90s.

Mrs. Griffin liked to dress well and have her picture taken, and she was often spotted wearing a dozen silver necklaces and bracelets. She was so popular that she was invited to her younger brother’s class reunions as well as her own, and a boyfriend’s family continued to have her over for dinner after he died.

“She was a vibrant woman,” her niece said.

In addition to her niece, Mrs. Griffin is survived by other relatives. Her brother died earlier.

Services were held on Nov. 3 and 4.

Donations in her name may be made to the Lillian H. Griffin Fund at the Foundation for Delaware County, Suite 304, 200 E. State St., Media, Pa. 19063.