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William R. Griffiths "Bill"

Company B-1

7 May 1939 - 10 Oct 2017

Place of Death: Tierra Verde, FL

Interment: National Cemetery in Pinellas County, FL

It is with great regret and sorrow that we must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Bill Griffiths, on 10 October in Tierra Verde, FL, as a result of an apparent heart attack. 

Bill is survived by his wife, Pat; their son, Rich; their daughters, Leigh Major (Ted) and Suzi Huntsman (Eric); and grandson, Patrick William Huntsman. 

Funeral services and burial will be held at Bay Pines National Cemetery in Pinellas County, FL.  Additionally, the family will host a Celebration of Life at Tampa Bay Watch on Tierra Verde, FL. 

Leigh Major, Bill Griffiths’ daughter, is planning Bill’s Memorial Service and Burial and Celebration of Life service and has asked that the following information be shared with classmates. 

The Memorial Service and Burial will be at Bay Pines National Cemetery in Pinellas County, FL on Friday, December 8th at 1:30 p.m. 

The Celebration of Life service will be held at Tampa Bay Watch in Tierra Verde, FL on Saturday, December 9th from 4 to 7 pm.  Dress is red, white, and blue or other patriotic attire. 

If you are planning to attend, please Leigh know by sending her a message at 

The family is working with The Don CeSar to secure group pricing.  The Don CeSar is the nicest hotel on St. Pete Beach!  Rooms are $287 which includes tax and resort fee.  There is also The Don CeSar Beach House which is close by but not part of the main hotel.  Guests of the Beach House can use all the amenities of the main hotel.  Rooms are $219 which includes tax and resort fee of $40.  To make reservations, go to and reserve under BILL GRIFFITHS. 

Another good option is the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront in downtown St. Pete which is in a great area with trendy restaurants, shopping, etc.  It is on the bay with great views.  There is no group rate offered so you can just book on your own by going to  Rooms are $189 plus tax (there is no resort fee).  Military and senior discounts are available. 

Regarding flights, Leigh suggests you check out Allegiant Airlines.  They fly out of regional airports directly into the St. Pete/Clearwater Airport with great access to Tierra Verde. 

If you have any questions, contact Leigh at 832-584-8937.

Condolences may be sent to Pat at 1595 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde, FL  33715-2519. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Bill’s memory be made to Tampa Bay Watch where Bill was an active member serving on the Board of Directors.  Donations may be mailed to 3000 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, FL  33715 or made online at

Well done, Bill,  Be thou at peace.


Class Memorial Pages\B-1 Bill Griffiths.pdf


Col. William "Bill" GRIFFITHS

GRIFFITHS, Col. William Richard "Bill" US  (Ret.) 78, of St. Petersburg, passed away October 10, 2017. Bill was born in Manhattan to Edith and Richard Griffiths and attended Brooklyn Technical High School. Following his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bill served honorably for 28 years as an Army Officer, including as an Armored Division Officer in command of combat units for two tours in Vietnam. He earned two Legion of Merit Medals, the Silver Star, three for valor, five Army Commendation Medals, 11 Air Medals, and numerous campaign and foreign awards. Bill's final tour of duty was as Director of the Joint Doctrine Center with independent command at MacDill AFB. Along the way, Bill earned two Master's degrees and was privileged to serve on the faculty at West Point teaching military history to the cadets. He also assumed command of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry "Quarterhorse" at Ft. Riley, KS, and completed a tour of duty in S. Korea as an advisor to the Republic of Korea Army. He was the author of "The Great War," which is used in text book form at West Point to this day.

After retiring from the Army, Bill served as an advocate for veterans at Worknet Pinellas where he worked as the Veteran Program Manager. He was also the screening committee chairman for two U.S. Congressmen for appointment of young men and women to West Point. In addition, Bill served on the board of directors of the West Point Society, Florida West Coast and CareerSource Pinellas.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Patricia; his son, Richard Griffiths; daughters, Leigh Major (Ted) and Suzi Huntsman (Eric); grandson, Patrick William Huntsman.

Funeral Services will be held at Bay Pines National Cemetery in Pinellas County, FL, Friday, Dec. 8, 1:30 pm. The family will host a patriotic Celebration of Life at Tampa Bay Watch on Tierra Verde, FL, Dec. 9 from 4-7 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in Bill's memory be made to Tampa Bay Watch ( where Bill served on the Advisory Committee.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 22, 2017

Taps Memorial Article:


Cullum No. 23496-1961 | October 9, 2017 | Died in St. Petersburg, FL
Cremated. Interred at Bay Pines National Cemetery, St. Petersburg, FL

In West Point’s 1961 Howitzer, it was said of William Richard “Bill” Griffiths that “Rollo,” as he was also known, “… lambasted and cajoled West Point into submission…as a stepping stone to greater things.” At his 55th reunion, he recounted his life’s adventures: “A good life, with good friends and family—what more could a boy from the streets of Brooklyn have wished for?” Undoubtedly an accurate characterization of how he viewed his life, but an understatement of the facts. A closer look at the details of his life reveals a man who achieved what had been predicted.

Born in New York City on May 7, 1939 to Richard and Edith Griffiths, Bill grew up in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, receiving an appointment to West Point, entering in 1957. He was a good student and a dutiful cadet, pursuing athletics and extracurricular activities (Handball Team, Sailing Club, Glee Club, Debate Club) while making friends with whom he maintained close relationships throughout his life. Always prudent, Rollo remained under the Tactical Department’s radar.

Bill’s already well-developed personality matured during his cadet years. Neither then, nor later in life, did he gladly suffer fools. If you were disposed to inanity, Bill was apt to tell you so in a few precisely chosen words. Rough on the outside, there was also a gentle side to Bill. An avowed Anglophile, he loved English bulldogs (as well as all animals), which graced the Griffiths’ home over the years. A devoted husband and father and loyal friend to many, he was quietly generous in helping others. This fact was evidenced as many inspiring stories about his unadvertised, charitable assistance emerged upon his death.

During his years at West Point, he gradually recognized that: “…the commitment I had made on the Plain as a plebe…to service to the nation and its Constitution became more important and an Army career became more plausible.” More plausible? With his subsequent graduation from Ranger School as an Armor branch officer, he attained the rank of full colonel and retired after 28 years. He served two combat tours in Vietnam and was awarded with some of our nation’s highest military decorations, including the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars (one with “V” device), 11 Air Medals, five Army Commendation Medals (one with “V” device), the Meritorious Service Medal, two Legion of Merit Medals and the Combat Infantryman Badge. The highlight of his career was commanding the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, his beloved Quarterhorse, at Fort Riley, KS. Staff assignments included service as director of the Joint Doctrine Center, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Independent Command at MacDill AFB, FL, and as advisor to the four-star general in command of the First Republic of Korea Army.

Bill earned two graduate degrees (M.A. in history from Rice University and a MMAS from the CGSC) and served as instructor in military history at West Point, where he authored the textbook The Great War.

“Prepared and Loyal,” his motto, and a copy of the Constitution handy on his desk, he was a true soldier’s soldier and selfless leader—as one of his company commanders recalled, “I attribute my successful military career to his leadership, mentorship and friendship.”

However, Bill would tell you his proudest achievement was his 55 years of marriage to Patricia and becoming parents of their three fine kids. Pat and Bill met while he was at West Point and Pat was at Marymount College. With divergent backgrounds, Pat, the sweet but strong-minded daughter of a Boston brahmin family, and Bill, the street-smart, hard-headed Brooklyner, were married in Hawaii in 1962 when Bill was serving in the 69th Armor at Schofield Barracks. Their wedding was followed by a stylish parade around post with the newlyweds in the turret of an armored vehicle. Thus, began a time that Bill accurately called “halcyon.” Living on Mokulea Beach, the family was soon enlarged by a daughter, Leigh, and a son, Rich. Life was idyllic with great neighbors nearby, including several classmates, who frequently gathered at the Griffiths’ welcoming home for respite from their soldierly duties. Pat and Bill became legendary hosts.

The family migrated to various stations of duty and their third child, Suzanne, was born in Texas. Ultimately St. Pete, FL became their home as they retired to their “Castle in the Sky.” Bill became a surprisingly competent golfer, enjoying mightily the camaraderie of his golfing buddies. When he wasn’t out on the course, he devoted his skills to helping returning veterans find employment in the civilian world, a very rewarding second career.

Pat and Bill’s life was gladdened by the marriages of their daughters: Leigh to Ted Major and Suzi to Eric Huntsman. The latter union resulted in the joyous addition of a grandson, Patrick William, the namesake of Pat and Bill. Bill happily became the doting grandfather, a station in life in which he truly exulted.

On the evening of October 9, 2017, after a pleasant family dinner surrounded by family, Bill had been highly entertained by the antics of his toddler grandson. On his way to bed, the old soldier suffered a heart attack and made his way to Fiddler’s Green.

Bill was laid to rest at Bay Pines National Cemetery with a large group of West Point classmates in attendance to honor his life and service. The memorial service that followed was joyous with fitting tributes to his life’s achievements and warm recollections of a very lovable guy. And Army beat Navy on that fine day.

Be Thou at Peace, Rollo. Mission well performed!

— William Esselstein ’61