Joyce Tomlin Griffith, a retired artist and interior designer who created show window exhibitions for the old Stewart’s Department Store, died of a stroke Nov. 24 at the Broadmead Retirement Community. She was 94.
Born Carolyn Joyce Tomlin in Statesville, North Carolina, she was the daughter of Joseph Irvin Tomlin, who owned a furniture manufacturing business, and Mary Norman Tomlin, a homemaker.
She made her debut at the North Carolina Debutante Ball hosted by the Terpsichorean Club in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was an accomplished equestrian. In the 1930s, she sailed to Europe on the Queen Mary. She later recalled that comedians Abbott and Costello were fellow travelers.
She was a 1946 graduate of Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, and earned a fine arts degree at what is now known as Hollins University. She also studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
“When she finished Hollins, my mother wanted to go New York but her father felt it was too dangerous,” said her son, Edward Alexander “Alec” Griffith. “They compromised on Baltimore because her older sister, Mary Norman “Normie” Harris, lived here.”
In 1953, she wed a decorated World War II flyer, Edward Alexander “Ned” Griffith III. They met one summer at Cape May, New Jersey, at the Brown Jug pub.
They had an extended honeymoon to Florence, Venice and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Upon their return to Maryland, they restored a Victorian house on Malvern Avenue in Ruxton.
Mrs. Griffith began her career doing oil and pastel portraits in Baltimore. She also designed seasonal window displays for Stewart’s Department Store at Howard and Lexington streets.
“My mother was an optimistic woman with a great sense of humor,” her son said. “She was an inclusive person and loved all people.”
“At a time when female entrepreneurs were rare, my mother was the driving force behind three of her own businesses, while also raising four children,” her son said.
Mrs. Griffith spent more than 40 years in the design business. She opened Papier Interiors in Timonium, the Baltimore Design Center at Howard Street and North Avenue and Joyce Griffith Interiors in Ruxton.
Her son said she helped fledgling female designers get their first creative jobs.
She was a community volunteer. She was a designer for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Decorators’ Show House for numerous years. She was an early chair of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s women’s committee. She worked closely with Arthur W. Sherwood, the foundation’s founder.
She was also a chair of the Peale Museum women’s committee.
Mrs. Griffith worked on the annual Flower Mart.
In retirement, she volunteered on the design committee at Broadmead.
“Into her 90s, she took great pride in remaining politically aware. She was a centrist Democrat and was interested in the world and what was going on,” her son said.
She was also an active member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton.
Nearly two decades ago, she formed a thoroughbred racing syndicate with three friends. They owned a horse, “John U Fool.” She worked with trainer J. B. Secor.
The horse proved to be a winner. She cheered enthusiastically as their long shot broke away from the pack and placed first at Pimlico.
“My mother and her friends wound up in the winner’s circle,” her son said. “She went bananas.”
Her son said she found joy in visiting her children and loved painting landscapes on a sunny day. She also taught her grandchildren how to fly fish in Baltimore County.
Her paintings were exhibited at Broadmead earlier this year.
Survivors include her two daughters, Louisa Griffith Aston, of St. Augustine, Florida, and Jean Griffith Hopkins of Reisterstown; two sons, Alexander Griffith IV of Port Republic and William Tomlin Griffith of La Jolla, California; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Her husband of 53 years, Edward Alexander “Ned” Griffith III, a developer who was involved in Towson’s Investment Building, died in 2006.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 27 at the Broadmead Retirement Community at 13801 York Road in Cockeysville.