For local residents who knew Jack Griffin, they knew two things were guaranteed: Griffin would be at Munroe Park on election day, shaking hands with voters while working as a 19th Ward precinct captain, and if he had a minute to himself, he’d be enjoying a big cigar.
Also active with Ridge-Beverly Little League, Griffin was known around the community as a kind coach and welcoming gentleman.
Friends and family are now mourning Griffin’s death. The longtime Beverly resident died on Aug. 19 at age 84.
He was a precinct captain for about 30 years, stepping away about a decade ago.
“He was very big into teaching people their right to vote and the need to vote for what they want,” said his son Michael. “So, he always stayed with it. It was something he would always pass to those around [the community] and those who didn’t understand how to vote.”
Griffin grew up in the parish of Little Flower Roman Catholic Church. With his wife of 54 years, Jean (nee Schapen), he raised six children in Beverly/Morgan Park, and all of them attended St. John Fisher Elementary School.
He became involved in politics when, as a member of the Young Democrats, he supported Tom Hynes, of Beverly, in his campaigns for 19th Ward alderman and Cook County assessor beginning in the late 1970s. He then became a precinct captain, and he was known for walking door to door to educate voters.
His oldest daughter, Sherri Lunny, said he often let his children have sleepovers, and in the morning, he would buy everyone doughnuts.
However, there was a catch. He would then send them out in the neighborhood to distribute campaign literature for 19th Ward politicians.
He always wanted to get to know people better.
“He was just an outgoing kind of guy,” Sherri said. “For my dad, it was just going to people’s houses, listening to their stories. … He loved Beverly and St. John Fisher. He was a people person.”
Griffin was a longtime member of Plumbers Union Local 130, at one point serving as a plumbing inspector for the city.
He was a large imposing figure, loved ones said, but rarely raised his voice.
He coached at Ridge-Beverly and served as league commissioner, and he was president of the Mother McAuley High School Father’s Club in the early 1990s. When he supported a cause, he gave 100 percent—and a little more.
“He was just one of those kind of guys who always got involved,” Sherri said. “He never just got involved—he made it to the top.”
Joe Broad is close friends with Griffin’s oldest son, John, and spent countless hours at the Griffin house on the 10400 block of South Talman Avenue.
He also played at Ridge-Beverly under Griffin when Broad was a child. He’ll never forget how enjoyable that was.
“He played every person that team,” Broad said. “It didn’t matter if you were the best player on the team or the worst player on the team—you played on that team, and you wanted to be on that team.”
Broad said Griffin “had a huge heart” that “went along really well with his huge cigars.”
Griffin told him he never had to knock when he came over—he was family, so he should come right in. Broad often found Griffin inside watching a Northwestern football game on a small TV. They would just sit and talk.
“The family kind of wrapped their arms around me,” Broad said. “I’ve probably dialed that phone number over 10,000 times in my life.”
“If you were friends with their kids, you were family,” Broad added. “They embraced us … not only Jack and Jean, but the entire family is just a great, great family.”
Griffin moved to Palos Township in recent years, and Michael now lives in his old home. Still, Griffin regularly attended Mass at St. John Fisher Church.
Griffin “loved politics,” Sherri said, and he cared for Beverly/Morgan Park just the same.
“He was always looking out for everyone in the neighborhood.”
Funeral services were held Aug. 24 from Curley Funeral Home to St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church. Interment followed at St. Mary Cemetery.
Griffin is survived by his wife, Jean; his children, John, Sherri (Jon) Lunny, Jill (Daniel) Scarnavack, Michael (Kara), David (Jennifer) and Kelli; 18 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and many nieces, nephews, in-laws and friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital at stjude.org.