John Edward Griffith “Griff” Atkinson, a food show organizer, musician and church leader, died of pulmonary fibrosis Nov. 29 at Sinai Hospital. The Phoenix resident was 74.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Govans-Cedarcroft, he was the son of John Clarence Atkinson, a Baltimore city worker, and Lillian Freeburger, a librarian at Wellwood Elementary School. He attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and was a 1960 graduate of Towson High School. He also earned a fine-arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
He taught woodworking in Baltimore and Carroll counties for several years and sold insurance before becoming a consultant to spice maker McCormick & Co. He designed a plastic bottle for spices used in restaurant kitchens.
His involvement with McCormick led him to work with food distributors in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, where he organized and supervised food trade shows. He earned the name “Foodshow Man” for his ability to entertain and serve as master of ceremonies at the events attended by restaurant owners.
Mr. Atkinson was a founding and active member of the Anglican Church of the Resurrection in Lutherville. He was an active lay pastoral minister and started the church’s men’s ministries. He was also a volunteer at Jacob’s Well, a 25th Street shelter in Baltimore that provides transitional and permanent housing for the homeless and mentally ill.
He previously was a member of St. John’s Church, Western Run Parish in Reisterstown and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in North Baltimore, where he worked with its youth group.
He had been first vice president of religion at the Emory Grove Association in Reisterstown, where he helped to organize Wednesday night hymn sings and Sunday evening services.
Mr. Atkinson was a member of Boy Scouts Troop 485 in Glencoe, where he served as an assistant scoutmaster and unit commissioner for the Dulaney district.
A musician, he helped found the Oregon Ridge dulcimer group. teaching and leading mountain dulcimer classes. His group performed at Oregon Ridge Park, Cromwell Valley Park and the Howard County Conservancy
He made wood toys, signs and ducks for family and friends. A classic-car enthusiast, he restored a Buick Grand National.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Anglican Church of the Resurrection, 11525 Greenspring Ave. in Lutherville.
Surviving is his wife of 53 years, Darleen Murphy, a registered nurse who worked at Greater Baltimore Medical Center; a son, Sam Atkinson of Ellicott City; two daughters, Cindy Atkinson of Phoenix and Lucy Eldridgeof Ellicott City; and five grandchildren.