Former Theater Owner Georgia H. Griffis of Shelter Island, Wellington Died at 90

Georgia H. Griffis
Georgia H. Griffis

Georgia H. Griffis, of Shelter Island, died peacefully in her home in Wellington, Florida on January 24.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in September 1932 to Arthur Hester of Warren, Arkansas, and Lois Hester of Poughkeepsie, she was 90 years old when she died. Her loving husband Roderick Lynn Griffis survives along with her three children: Ian, Melora and Kate, as well as her seven grandchildren and a great grandchild.

She was raised in Glenview, Illinois, and developed an early talent for acting, performing radio drama in Chicago. She attended Lawrence University in Wisconsin and was later admitted to the Yale University drama school on a full scholarship but chose to study acting with Sydney Pollack and Charles Conrad in New York City instead.

She met her husband in drama class when they were paired as acting partners. They were best friends for three years until a scripted first kiss that was part of a scene changed everything. The young couple acted in Sarasota, Florida, NYC, Hollywood, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and then moved to Buffalo, New York, where they purchased the Studio Theatre School and formed the Courtyard Theater.

Following the sale of the theater to the University of Buffalo, Georgia and Rod Griffis moved their family to Montclair, New Jersey, where Georgia become head of the drama department at the Morristown Beard School and got her masters in theater and education from NYU. She performed in several plays with The Whole Theatre Company, with Olympia Dukakis.

In 1989 Georgia and Rod Griffis moved to Shelter Island, sailing their 32-foot sailboat from Lake Erie, in Canada, through the Erie Canal to the Hudson River, south around Manhattan Island and up the East River to the Long Island Sound. They dropped anchor and lived on the boat for several weeks until their house closing.

Griffis has been a vital member of St. Mary’s Church, serving on the vestry and taking part in major events as well as bringing the Alpha program to the church and several theater performances to services over the years. The couple also supported the Friends of Music, the Shelter Island Library and the building of the town playground.

The couple was known for their enormous love for each other. They were happily together for 67 years, sharing their love of the arts, sailing, good conversation, beautiful meals with family and friends and their strong faith in God. Griffis was also well known for her photographic memory and ability to recite lyrics, sonnets and poetry.

Her stories were filled with accurate details, colorful memories and humor.

Griffis will be sorely missed by her family, extended family and many friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Mary’s Church at Her funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church on Shelter Island on February 11. The Shelter Island Funeral Home is serving the family.

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