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Lyman William ‘Bill’ Griswold dies at 95

Bill Griswold holds the framed photos and news clippings from his days as a Navy pilot with the Black Cats, in the Pacific theater .

jb  03/11/8   Geoff Bluh

Bill Griswold holds the framed photos and news clippings from his days as a Navy pilot with the Black Cats, in the Pacific theater . jb 03/11/8 Geoff Bluh

Lyman William “Bill” Griswold, who worked for decades to create a bikeway in Greenfield, helped create a conservation area for the town, and flew during World War II with the Navy squadrons that flew missions to interfere with Japanese efforts to resupply their troops, died Sunday at age 95.

Griswold, who had been Greenfield Conservation Commission chairman, was among the pioneers in the effort to develop a bikeway, and also a passionate advocate for local environmental projects.

“What a sweet man,” said Sandra Thomas, who recalled Griswold’s involvement when the Greenfield Energy Park was being developed off Miles Street, and also his concern for serving his native town. “He was always so thoughtful about how he cared for the environment. He had a passion and a knowledge that he brought to discussions about the water and other environmental issues that he was very determined to share.”

Chris Ethier, who worked on the Franklin County Bikeway Committee that Griswold chaired from the outset, said, “Bill was very, very focused on what he did and was a guy who got stuff done.”

Griswold was born in Greenfield June 18, 1917.

He worked summers from 1932 to 1941 for the Boston and Maine Railroad, and in nor’easter of 1936, he worked on the dam that washed out over at the Millers Falls Paper Company. In 1941, the ‘gunite’ concrete machine that plastered the walls of the Hoosac Tunnel.

A 1935 graduate of Greenfield High School and a 1941 graduate of Colgate University, Griswold served during World War II in the Pacific, where he strafed Japanese supply lines and participated in a large rescue effort of coastal watchers and 115 Australians.

He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945.

He married Patricia Henry in December, 1945, returning to Greenfield in 1946.

He taught Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Illinois Institute of Technology, and flew with Navy Military Air Transport Service.

He also flew the Berlin airlift, the months-long effort by western Allies to keep all of Berlin independent, democratic and free of Soviet domination after World War II.

In July 1950, Griswold was diverted from Westover Air Force base, hauling material for the Korean action for month with no breaks, hauling materials to Greenland to build the Thule, Greenland airbase.

Griswold taught instrument flying to pilots going to the Korean War in 1952 and 1953, and his last military assignment was carrier flight duty in San Diego leading to 20 years of living on the West Coast.

He moved to Reno, Nev., and started a dry-cleaning business that had among its customers the casinos and its entertainers — Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr, Cliff Robertson and Bobby Darrin among them. He also worked with the F Troop TV show in the 1960s when it shot on location at Pyramid Lake.

Griswold, who had separated from his first wife, maintained his flying skills in the Civil Air Patrol, and he recruited a neighbor, Portia Hawley to join the CAP, and then to become his second wife. With her involvement, he became a Democrat, and they met John F. Kennedy in 1960 during the Massachusetts senator’s successful presidential campaign.

Griswold built the KOA campground in Greenfield and went to work at Northfield Mount Hermon School, initially as the skating rink operator and then as head of the school’s farm program. He helped create the school’s girls hockey team and served as its first coach. He retired in 1983 and sold the campground.

He turned his attention to work on the Greenfield Conservation Commission, and with other family members and the former Greenfield Tap & Die, donated a 200-acre conservation area to the town along Lampblack Road near the Bernardston line.

Griswold also was active in the Bernardston Veterans Club and in the Bernardston Unitarian Church.

He is survived by children Mary Tabor Griswold, Lyman William Griswold, David Griswold (Courtney), Susan Riggsby (Craig); and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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