Stephen Lewis Griswold died after fighting very hard and very courageously against the ravages of myelofibrosis on Sunday, February 10, 2013.
Stephen was welcomed on May 5, 1948 in Torrington, Connecticut by proud parents Dorothy Adelaide and Lewis Leslie Griswold, and by his loving big sister, Rosanne, who, except for the bloody nose incident, was always his loyal protector and advocate. The family was joined in 1952 by little brother Lee Franklin who was amply teased by his big brother but still they were the best of buddies. Steve’s family shared a home with his grandparents (Rose and Frederick Stull) and they had many good times together, especially holiday celebrations when they were often joined by numerous relatives from throughout the northeast. These celebrations and the family’s annual visits to Torrington’s dazzling “Christmas Village” must have inspired Steve’s lifelong love of Christmas and the spirit of joyous giving that he truly and generously demonstrated every day of his life.
Steve’s other grandparents (Lila and Louis Griswold) lived nearby in Torrington. Grandma Griswold won Steve’s heart with her lemon meringue pies, and Grandpa Griswold introduced Steve to the arts of blueberry picking and fishing, though that didn’t turn out to be a favorite activity when Grandpa insisted that Steve bait his own hooks. Steve initiated his business career during these early years in Torrington by building a backyard carnival, where he charged a penny for the main attraction of– throwing heavy wet sponges at his brother’s head stuck through a tire. He also went into the fudge business with his sister. It is hard to say whether the fudge was any good, but neighbors could not resist the cute little blonde boy at their door offering a 4-ounce paper cup of fudge for a quarter.
After going to Cape Cod for summer vacations for several years, in 1955 Steve’s family discovered Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine, and in 1959, purchased a cottage there, a home that remains in the family and has been the site of lobster feasts and family gatherings for fifty-six years. Also in 1959, Steve’s family moved to Litchfield (Connecticut) to a home surrounded by woods where Steve loved playing “Army” with his brother and buddies, and where he and his brother entertained themselves by seeing if they could outrun the rocks they threw at each other from the driveway before it was paved. During this time, he also figured out how to disconnect the odometer on his Dad’s VW in order to fool his parents into thinking he and his brother stayed local when they went out with friends or on dates, raising his parents concern about why the VW’s tires wore out so quickly and why oil changes were needed so frequently.
After his dad built him a basketball court in an effort to provide his son with a tamer and less dangerous pursuit, Steve honed the skills he would later display on the Litchfield High School basketball court as a center (#55). At LHS, Steve discovered a liking for American History; when it was time to apply to college, that interest, in addition to his summers in Maine, inspired him to apply to Bates College in Lewiston. At Bates, he majored in history and continued his career on the basketball court during his freshman and sophomore years. When Steve was a junior, he married Susan Funderburk, his high school sweetheart, then also a student at Bates. Their daughter Laurie was born about a year later and Steve’s own beloved family was launched. Those early years as married students and parents brought many challenges and, later, son Matthew, but both Steve and Sue succeeded in graduating college.
After graduation from Bates, Steve worked as Housing Coordinator for the newly formed Maine Model Cities Program in Lewiston, Maine. There he found his professional passion as a real estate developer. After starting his own real estate development and management companies, often partnering with his brother Lee, Steve developed numerous housing and hospitality projects in New Hampshire and Maine. He also pursued innovative ways to finance his projects and created the first Maine private syndication of limited partnership interests in the mid-1970’s. No matter the size or nature of the project, he always thought it would be a success and was able to communicate his vision and his enthusiasm to others. He was a wonderful teacher, willing to take the time to explain the minutia of a project and to involve others in its achievement.
Steve found time to pursue a number of hobbies and interests. He conceived a lifelong love of cars with his purchase of an old Corvette in the mid-seventies, which he launched with a 14-day whirlwind tour of the U.S. with his brother, Lee and a visit to his sister Rosanne in Iowa. He added several sports cars to his collection over the years; one of his favorite accomplishments was the meticulous restoration of a 1932 Deuce Coupe. Steve eventually invested in a racing team, Grizco, and car #55 participated in races at racetracks all over the northeast usually with driver and pal Brad Leighton at the wheel. Steve also enjoyed winter getaways in Florida and the Caribbean, especially in Bermuda, though his favorite mode of travel and vacationing was his 45’ motercoach in which he enjoyed winters in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He also loved long weekends at his cabin in Denmark, Maine and at his family’s summer home at Goose Rocks Beach. He was an avid sports fan, attending many home games of the New England Patriots, and he was part-owner of a basketball team, the Maine Red Claws in Portland.
Although Steve committed so much of his time and passion to his work and to his hobbies, his greatest passion was for his family and friends. After his marriage to Susan ended, Steve married Margaret Ellen Smith, who brought with her two children from a previous marriage, Martha Mai and Christopher Thompson. The blended family shared a home in Freeport for many years, where family gatherings often included the former spouses of both Steve and Margaret, demonstrating the humanity of the two partners and their desire to ensure that their children would enjoy loving and supportive relationships with parents and step-parents. Eventually, the family grew to include thirteen grandchildren. Steve considered it his greatest accomplishment and pleasure to be the loving “Papa” to his grandchildren, who often vied with each other to see who could have an outing or overnight with Papa and Nonnie at their home on Chandler’s Wharf in Portland.
Sadly, in 2011, after suffering a number of the symptoms of myelofibrosis for at least two years, Steve was finally diagnosed and began treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He received two bone marrow transplants and numerous blood platelet donations from his brother Lee, but though Steve and his wife Peg and his doctors fought the disease as hard as anyone could, he died on February 10, 2013. His family and friends will always cherish the memory of Steve’s great humanity and regard for others. What he acquired, all that he had, he did not regard as his to keep but as a means of creating happiness for others. Needless to say, he is acutely missed.
Contributed by Jennifer Acker
These represent first person accounts of real people living with Essential Thrombocythemia, Polycythemia Vera and Myelofibrosis. It does not represent the views or opinions of anyone associated with the MPN Research Foundation. Please consult your doctor before taking any action to manage your health.