Valley Lives - Douglas Griffin

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the April 16, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Fierce Chelsea community advocate dies at 72

by Joel Balsam

There is perhaps no one else in Chelsea today who wanted the municipality to maintain its rural character more than Doug Griffin. Agree with him or not, Griffin was at every council meeting to keep the politicians on point and responsible. He even ran for council in 2009, but did not get elected.

Valley Lives
This photo was taken for Douglas Griffin's campaign for municipal councillor in 2009. Low Down File photo.

Griffin's passionate beliefs touched many people's lives. "Doug Griffin was a voice of reason in a community fighting to save its beautiful, natural way of life and he had a huge influence on me and others," wrote Donna Burgess of Chelsea in the Legacy.com obituary for Griffin.

"He was not content to do nothing in the face of decisions that had significant negative environmental impacts on the community. His passion, intelligence, bravery and grit were an inspiration to many, including myself," wrote Geoff Bleich, also from Chelsea.

Griffin's 21 year-old daughter, Gillian, who is studying at Concordia University in Montreal, agreed. "He was such a tenacious man. Always fighting for what he believed in," she said. Gillian Griffin took the winter semester off school this year to look after her father, who ended up losing his battle with heart disease on April 4 at the age of 72.

Griffin's funeral on April 12 attracted a huge crowd, which jam-packed St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Chelsea.

"Doug was a memorable and likeable character, with a few quirks thrown in to make him really interesting," said friend and fellow churchgoer John Coleman. "The packed church [April 12] testified to his standing in Chelsea... It was a real celebration of a life."

Coleman spent a great deal of time with Griffin in his final months, taking him groceries, driving him to medical appointments, and listening to his life story. "I was a good witness," he said.

In the eulogy that Coleman presented, he explained how, even though a complicated marriage caused Griffin and his wife, Margaret, who died seven years ago, to separate, he loved her until his dying days. "He never said an unkind word about Margaret; only spoke words of pride and regret. In his last week, he was convinced that Margaret, at every moment, was standing at the foot of his bed."

Valley Lives
Doug Griffin. Photo courtesy John Coleman.

Coleman also explained that, although Griffin was a devoted member of the church for the last four years, he had a genuine interest in other faiths such as Baha'i. "[He was] very spiritual, very interested in religion and open to a variety of ways of sensing the divine," said Coleman. Two members of the Baha'i centre, of which Margaret was a member, also spoke at the funeral.

His fighting words about preventing development in Chelsea - words that were frequently published in the 'Low Down' - were an indication that Griffin enjoyed the simple life without industrial development. While writing his dissertation for a doctorate in adult education at the University of Toronto, Griffin lived at a cottage by Horseshoe Lake without running water and other comforts.

What's more, when he first moved to Chelsea, Griffin had two horses, Lightning and Sundance, which he rode proudly around the neighbourhood. "He absolutely loved them," said Gillian Griffin of her father's horses.

In Griffin's memory, the family has asked that donations to the cause of your choice be made in lieu of sending flowers.

Return to list.