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Aspen loses longtime local character

Naomi Havlen

One of Aspen’s longtime local characters died Wednesday.Ross Griffin, 76, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but was raised in Pasadena, Calif. He moved to Aspen in 1951, having graduated from Western State College in Gunnison, according to his friend and Aspen resident Tom Benton. Griffin worked in the Climax Mine over Independence Pass before he arrived in Aspen.Friend Dick Bird said those who knew Griffin from the early days in Aspen remember him as a “true renaissance man.” He had a number of jobs in Aspen over the years, becoming a familiar face on Aspen Mountain as a ski patrolman, a ski instructor and a lift operator.Griffin got involved in local politics and courts, serving as a city councilman from 1970 to 1973 when the council first started to work in earneston creating the town’s pedestrian malls. He also worked as a city magistrate, taking over for Guido Meyer.”Ross was a great judge,” said Benton. In 1976, Benton performed the wedding ceremony for Griffin and his former wife, Marci. Marci and Griffin divorced after six years and she is now married to Benton.”He was a great man, and we stayed friends,” Marci Benton said. “He’s been a friend of Tom’s forever, and it’s tough that he’s gone.”Marci Benton said Griffin had worked as a maitre d’ at Galena Street, a gourmet restaurant here many years ago. He would often tell jokes to the customers to keep them laughing, she said.Griffin had worked as a disc jockey in town and did a short stint as a local bus driver. A jack-of-all-trades, Griffin became a sheriff’s deputy when he worked for a few years as a jailer at the Pitkin County Jail, even though he always said he wasn’t fond of the police, Tom Benton said.Two years ago Griffin retired and moved to Glenwood Springs to live with a friend. His love of fast skiing paralleled his love of fast motorcycles, and in the summer, Bird said, it wasn’t rare to see Griffin on his motorcycle. Marci Benton said that when they were married, Griffin would keep two of his cycles in their living room.He was also a train enthusiast, and he went to Nevada to become a licensed engineer on steam locomotives. He had a sizable library on the history of railroads all over the West, Bird said.”Aspen has lost another of its old-timers, an era that is slowly slipping away,” Bird said.”He had an awful lot of friends, and a lot of people knew him,” Tom Benton said. “We’re going to have a memorial for him sometime at the Red Onion.”Ross Griffin is survived by his niece, California resident Cathy Griffin, his good friend Anne-Marie Rosen and her son David Richard of Glenwood Springs, and many others in the valley.The Aspen Times will publish details on Griffin’s memorial when they become available.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com