When a local anthropologist died recently, St. Augustine not only lost a storyteller of the region’s history, but those who knew her say they lost a friend and mentor as well.
Patricia C. Griffin died just an hour shy of 2018 on Dec. 31.
On Jan. 30 she would have turned 97, her daughter Lona Flocke told The Record on Wednesday.
Griffin, who is described as an “independent scholar” on her web page entry for Flagler College’s Historic St. Augustine Research Institute, is perhaps best known locally for her love of history and her academic work that included her books “Mullet on the Beach: The Minorcans of Florida” which was published in 1991, and “The Odyssey of an African Slave,” the memoir of a slave named Sitiki — also known as Jack Smith — who died a free man in St. Augustine, according to the University Press of Florida’s website. Griffin edited the work and saw it published in 2009.
She edited and published other books and articles, too. But all of that came years after a full career in social work and as a mental health counselor, her daughter said.
Flocke took some time Wednesday to talk about her mom’s many accomplishments in a world that wasn’t always friendly to a driven woman.
That was apparent early in her life when she attended University of California, Berkeley and told her adviser that she wanted to go into medicine. The adviser asked if she ever planned to have children. She did.
“And her adviser told her, ‘Well you can’t be a doctor,’” Flocke said.
She studied political science, graduated and got a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago.
“That’s where she met my father,” Flocke said.
Eventually the couple made it to Florida where the husband, John Wallace, worked for a time as the state’s archaeologist.
Griffin stayed busy too.
Flocke said she worked as a private mental health counselor. She was also on the faculty at Florida State University where she taught social work and oversaw the field placement of the program’s interns.
“And that was her career through her young and middle adulthood until she went back and got the doctorate in her 60s,” she said.
That was in anthropology.
It came in 1988 from the University of Florida (Griffin’s curriculum vitae on the Flagler College website says she also got a second master’s degree there).
Flocke said the history of the state, and this region in particular, likely drove her mom to work toward the anthropology degree.
“I think it was some research she had done,” she said. “Some historical and anthropological interest she had of the Minorcans and the New Smyrna colony.”
But it wasn’t as if her mother was ever one to just sit around.
“Also in her 60s she took up running … and got up to half marathons in competition,” Flocke said, half chuckling at the things she took on later in life.
“She was a very strong woman and there are many who have told me recently, and throughout her life, that she was a mentor to them,” she said. “Both setting an example of what one can accomplish in life and as a professional woman.”
That’s how noted local historian Susan C. Parker remembers her.
“Because she lived so long and was so active … she did so much,” she told The Record. “And did (much of it) before we knew her.”
Parker noted that Griffin was about the same age as her own mother but looked up to her more as an older sister and an example of how to live one’s life.
“She always had to push through as a woman in a man’s world,” she said.
The energy to forge ahead and try new things that Flocke noted didn’t go unnoticed by Parker either.
She recalled a “vibrant” friend who always chose at parties to sit next to people she didn’t know and never let her age slow her down.
“You never thought you were talking to someone in her 70s or 80s,” Parker said.
As fellow researchers, the two traveled together, and Parker recalled one time, when Griffin was in her 70s, that they were sharing a room with a bunk bed that Parker assumed would require some discussion about who would sleep where.
“And Pat jumped up on the top bunk,” Parker remembered.
Parker called Griffin one of her favorite people who will likely be remembered for her scholarly work.
“But more than that she was an example to men and women on how to live a completely full life,” she said.