Former Sun-Star journalist Jerry Griffith dies at 88

Jerry Griffith, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, is seen at work in this undated photo.
Jerry Griffith, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, is seen at work in this undated photo. Jerry Griffith family

Jerry William Griffith, a retired newspaper reporter and editor who spent many years with the Merced Sun-Star, died Tuesday, according to his family. He was 88.

Born July 10, 1928, in Trenton, Mo., Griffith was an avid reader and a movie fan, his family recalled in a statement. His interest in literature and the movies started at a young age when he became a member of the Basil Rathbone fan club. He wrote many letters to Rathbone about the actor’s movie portrayal of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Griffith’s interest in Sherlock Holmes continued throughout his life. He also enjoyed reading about American and military history, his family said.

In 1946, Griffith enlisted in the Army and spent a year on assignment in the Philippines. Following his military discharge in 1947, he attended Trenton Junior College and then earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. At the university, he became a member of Sigma Delta Chi, a professional journalism society.

According to the family’s statement, he next served for four years in the U.S. Air Force, working in the information services program. He worked as a reporter and assistant editor of the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, “Tailspinner” newspaper; editor of the Northeast Guardian while stationed at Pepperell AFB, Newfoundland; and as editor of the Carswell AFB, Texas, “Scanner” newspaper.

He then worked four years as a reporter-photographer with the Nevada, Mo., Daily Mail and Sunday Herald before joining Lesher Newspapers’ Madera Tribune as sports editor and general reporter in February 1965, his family said.

Griffith transferred to the Atwater bureau of the Sun-Star, where he worked for 19 months before moving to the Merced office of the newspaper in 1967, according to the statement. He was assigned as city government reporter. He joined The Modesto Bee staff as a member of the Valley section news desk in July 1967. He resigned to return to the Sun-Star in April 1970.

In 1978, Griffith accepted a position with Merced College, where he served as information officer, the family said. The pull of the newsroom and the city beat brought him back to the Sun-Star a few years later, where he worked until his retirement in 1991, according to the statement. Griffith lived in Oakhurst for a number of years before moving to the Veterans Home of California facility in Fresno.

Griffith was preceded in death by his wife, Margarette “Peggy”; his brother and sister-in-law Earl and Evelyn Griffith; and his parents Earl and Fern Griffith. He is survived by his stepson Norman Martin Jr. and wife Chris; his stepdaughter Susan Doyle and husband Mark; and his three grandchildren, Dominic Doyle and Rachel and Megan Martin. He is also survived by three nephews, Mark, David and Stephen Griffith.

A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in Merced District Cemetery, 1300 B St. In lieu of flowers, contributions in the names of Peggy and Jerry Griffith may be made to the American Cancer Society and/or CurePSP.