Buddy Griffie lived his dream
Buddy Griffie loved the Fair Grove Fire Department.
For more than 40 years, Griffie volunteered his time at the fire station, doing whatever he could to help out his second family in his home away from home. While health issues may have prevented Griffie from running into burning buildings, his presence and caring spirit meant as much as any fire truck, water hose or siren.
On Nov. 30, Griffie, 76, passed away from congestive heart failure, leaving the brick firehouse on Cedar Lodge Road without a man who always dreamed of being a fireman.
"He was probably more dedicated than any firefighter in here, paid or volunteer," said Chief Andy Lyndon. "He can never be replaced. There always will be a void here from now on. Always. It will never be the same. I don't know if there's any of our 60 some members who doesn't miss him."
Born in 1936, Griffie, the youngest of 13 children, bypassed his dream for the furniture mills in an effort to help his mother make ends meet. While the lack of a high school diploma prevented Griffie from pursuing a firefighting career, it didn't deter him from being involved in any way he could. Whether it was directing traffic, warming up the fire trucks or keeping the drink machine stocked, Griffie always managed to find what Lyndon described as "busy work."
"You hear people saying all the time that someone would give you the shirt off their back," Lyndon said. "He would do that if it was 25 below zero outside. It's just the way he was. He was up here every morning when I came in to work. He was a fixture here."
To Griffie, being a part of the fire department wasn't about getting a paycheck. As a volunteer, Griffie's daughter, Bobbie DiPilato, said her father's paycheck came every day, knowing he was part of something bigger than himself.
"If he wasn't here, he felt like he was letting people down," said DiPilato. "If anything, he was just a dear friend, an ear to listen and give good advice. It didn't take a paycheck to fulfill his dream. This was his passion, it was his career. Money didn't matter."
Griffie started his firefighting career volunteering at Pilot Fire Department in 1967. His family moved across town a few years later, and Griffie migrated his dream to Fair Grove. After suffering a massive heart attack, the first of five, in 1979, Griffie fully focused his attention on Fair Grove Fire Department, doing whatever he could to help. Friendships transformed into family over the ensuing three decades, creating bonds that those who knew him feel can never be broken.
"You couldn't ask for a better guy," said Benji McClamrock, deputy chief. "He was really dedicated. He always wanted to help and be a part of whatever we were doing. It's hard to find that kind of dedication out of someone this day and time."
As Griffie's health steadily declined, Lyndon said he wanted to do something special to let the long-time volunteer know that his place at the station house always would be secure. On Nov. 14, Lyndon made Griffie a lifetime member of the department.
"He always worried about us letting him go so I thought about it and I felt like we needed to give him something," said Lyndon. "He was afraid we would push him out the door. It was something I wanted to do to let him know we would never be out of this department. We wanted to show he would always be a part of this family."
A week later, at the department’s annual Christmas dinner, Griffie, as voted on by his peers, was named the 2012 Firefighter of the Year. In the days following his death, Lyndon said he can still feel Griffie's presence.
"I don't think you could ever forget a guy like Buddy," Lyndon said. "You walk in this station and he's still here. It was a beautiful sunrise [Wednesday] morning. I walked out to the front of the station and there was a rainbow. I knew he was here with me. He showed me a rainbow and I knew he was still here."
A sign in front of the station reads "Buddy Griffie is now retired." To those who knew him, this was the only way Griffie would leave his firefighter family. To those inside the brick firehouse on Cedar Lodge Road, Griffie was, is and always will be a man remembered for helping others.
Buddy Griffie lived his dream.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or email@example.com.