BANGS — Alvis Griffin, 98, of Bangs was looking forward to serving his duties as grand marshal at Saturday’s Mayfest Parade — the festive kickoff to a day filled with booths, games and activities for the entire family.
The former member of the Bangs City Council had served on the Bangs Volunteer Fire Department and the board of the Bangs Housing Authority, and he remained active in the First United Methodist Church and the Bangs Senior Citizens.
Unfortunately, Griffin didn’t live long enough to fulfill the commitment he had made to the Bangs Business Association, which planned this year’s Mayfest. Griffin became ill, and he died — at home — on April 18.
But association members and his family members soon decided the show must go on, and a beloved grandson would ride in the parade as a tribute to Griffin. After all, his family figured, Jeffery Niell would have probably been riding with his grandfather anyway.
“They were practically inseparable,” Jeffery’s mother and one of Griffin’s daughters, Sharon Niell of Bangs, said.
That special bond between the two was important enough that Jeffery, 43, served as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral.
The parade at which Griffin will be remembered will begin in Bangs at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will wind through Bangs until it ends at City Park, where Mayfest will be under way from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jeffery, who has physical and mental disabilities, his mother said, seemed to always be by his grandfather’s side. The bond was close enough that Griffin had expressed concern about how his grandson would handle the grief when he was no longer around.
So far, Jeffery’s mother said, he seems to be coping well.
“He knows he’s not here now,” Sharon Niell said. “He came to his house, and he understood. He didn’t have any problems with that.”
Earlier this week, Griffin’s three daughters — Niell, Jean Williams of Lake Brownwood and Kay Wilson of Brownwood — had not decided whether any of them or any other family members will be in the parade on Griffin’s behalf Saturday. But they were confident that Jeffery will be.
“When looking at family group shots, it’s a pretty safe bet that if you find Jeffery, you’ll find Granddaddy right next to him,” granddaughter Holly Williams said. At meal time, a spot next to one of them was always reserved for the other. That arrangement held true for other situations, as well.
“The entire extended family knows the routine,” Holly reflected.
Sundays were always spent together at Griffin’s house.
“If you’re trying to reach Granddaddy in the morning, you’ll need to get in line and try several times, because most morning Granddaddy and Jeffery were catching up on life via the telephone,” Holly said. “Just like the rest of the grandkids, Jeffery loves his Granddaddy, and thinks he hung the moon.”
Usually, both of them would be wearing a hat. It was rare to see Griffin without his, so Jeffery did the same.
“He wears a narrow brim felt hat just like his grandfather did,” Sharon Niell said. “That, or a cap. And they would always both wear a watch, too.”
Born on Nov. 4, 1909, to Henry Leslie Griffin and Zimmer Franklin McDonald Griffin in Watts Creek in Coleman County, Griffin was married Nettie Lolete Williamson on June 11, 1933, in Santa Anna. They celebrated 69 years of marriage before she died in 2002.
Griffin was a farmer in his early life. When he was a boy, he said he remembers being paid 35 cents for picking 100 pounds of cotton.
He also played fiddle for a country band called the Wranglers. The band was formed in 1941 with members Fats Burnett, Carlton Roberts, W.D. Rambo, Billy Pieratt and Bruner Burris. That same year, the band played on the first program to air on radio station KBWD.
During World War II, Griffin worked for Consolidated Aircraft (later General Dynamics and now Lockheed), installing floors in B-24 bomber aircraft. He moved back to Santa Anna in 1944. He worked as an oil man for Lone Star Gas Company for 26 years, first in Santa Anna and then in Bangs where he moved his family in 1953. He also worked for Brown Industrial for seven years.
Griffin and his wife had seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Grubbs said the jail cells don’t have cameras because of the $100,000 to $150,000 expense they would incur. “If funding were available it would be a good security measure,” Grubbs said.
“This is a pretty expensive item. It would be a safeguard for our people and the inmates both, really.”
He said he has discussed the topic with the Commissioners Court.