Dr. Dean H. Griffin, a longstanding community leader and prominent physician passed away on Feb. 1, 2020. Friends, family, and colleagues filled the First Presbyterian Church of Westminster on Feb. 8 to celebrate his life and accomplishments.
Griffin was a member of an era of community leaders and physicians that helped make Carroll County what it is today.
Lifelong family friend (and my sister-in-law) the Rev. Dr. Sarah Babylon Dorrance wrote on her website, “RevSarahMUMC,” on Feb. 10, A Tribute to Dr. Dean Griffin: “Dean had a life call on his heart to care about people. For that very reason he started teaching, and eventually became a family physician. Who knows how many patients Dean walked beside? Who knows how many he cared for? …”
According to information provided by his family, Susan Griffin, John Griffin, and Etta Ray (Black) Griffin, “Griffin was a graduate of Westminster High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1957; Master of Science from The American University in 1959; and his Doctorate in Medicine from The University of Maryland in 1966.
Along the way, he taught at New Windsor High School, Manchester Middle School, and Taneytown High School. After he graduated from medical school, Griffin entered private family practice with Drs. Stewart and Welliver in Westminster where he provided care for the various communities in Carroll County for nearly 40 years.
When Griffin graduated from medical school in 1966, Carroll County General Hospital had been open for five years — since October 1961 — and was off to a hesitant and difficult start. Griffin was a key member of a group of physicians that embraced the hospital and gave it some momentum. It was the beginning of a lifetime of visionary leadership that is now a part of his legacy today.
I was fortunate enough to have been a patient of Welliver and Stewart’s practice — since 1953. Later when I was involved in high school sports, it was Griffin’s key and critical leadership that many of us looked up to in those formative years. When our friends and classmates were serving and dying in Vietnam, he was there for us. When we faced obstacles with our participation in sports, or got hurt, Griffin was there for us; mostly, on his own time. When my best friend, Mark Causey, died of cancer in 1971, he was there for me and all my classmates and teammates.
Over the years he was the athletic team physician of Westminster, South Carroll, and Liberty High School football teams; physician for volunteer firefighters of Carroll County; and on staff of Carroll County General Hospital in the Department of Family Practice. Griffin also served on the board of directors at Union National Bank from 1984 to 2000.
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Griffin was also there with visionary leadership for the fire service and was known to be a friend and advocate for military personnel (and me when I served in the Marines stateside — during the Vietnam War, when it was not the popular thing to do), firefighters and police officers. Way ahead of his time.
In an email shortly after Griffin’s death, Westminster Fire Department President Danny Plunkert said, “We also lost a friend of the fire service… Dr. Griffin had a private practice in Westminster, and was the primary doctor that together with [fire service in Carroll County] started the [first responder–firefighter] physical program. Dr. Griffin was a true friend of the fire service ...”
Dorrance explained, Griffin “talked to everyone around him. … For Dean there were no strangers. … Dean cared about people. He listened to their stories. He was curious. So much so that his family hosted two exchange students. He loved people, and he loved life …”
“Dr. Griffin enjoyed numerous hobbies and interests including tennis; skiing; cycling; offshore fishing; whitewater rafting; travel and reading. He was a member of [many civic organizations] and the Westminster Riding Club where he originally served as the first lifeguard to watch over the swimming pool after its construction…”
First Presbyterian Pastor Matthew Glasgow said at the memorial service, “Dean … had a way of interacting, which made people feel like they had a special connection. I have had at least two dozen people in that last week, share that they had a ‘special relationship with Dean.’ This doesn’t diminish how ‘special’ the connections were, just because many people felt they had them. On the contrary, it points to how Dean was able to connect with everyone. Dean treated everyone with respect. I can only imagine how comforting that was for his patients while he was practicing as a physician."
Dorrance spoke for many when she wrote, “It is a gift to grow up in community who cares for each other.”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.