In Bremerton, he met and married Paula Caraway in 1968. She attended college while he finished his naval career and worked at various jobs. The couple had their first child, Shelly, in 1970. Griffin attended college, receiving a bachelor's degree in community arts in 1973 from Pacific Lutheran University. Their son, Mark, blessed the family that same year.
In 1975, Griffin received a master's degree in speech and oral interpretation of literature from the University of Southern Illinois. In 1976, the Griffin family relocated to Sacramento where Griffin was the principal of the Gloria Day High School.
From California, the family made the move to Alaska. In 1979, the family moved to Barrow and later relocated to Point Hope, where Griffin taught English at both schools.
"That was my Bush experience. That is where I paid my dues in Alaska," he said.
Griffin checks "Annie Get Your Gun" cast makeup before unlocking the doors on opening night.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
In 1980, Griffin applied for the job of managing the theater at newly opened Soldotna High School. He was chosen for the job and has lived in Soldotna ever since.
Years later, his children graduated from SoHi.
In 1991, Paula died at the age of 42. Griffin said her death was difficult for the family. He said he and the children always have talked about her death, rather than keeping it bottled inside. He said he believes it has made a difference
"That's the key to it is to talk about it," he said. "That was a very hard time."
Griffin gives direction to the cast of "Annie Get Your Gun" before the play opened to the public last week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
In 1992, Griffin married his second wife, Debbie, who he had worked with in Point Hope years before. She had three young children when they first married, and Griffin said it was like starting another family.
"This is my second go around," he said, adding he believes he was a better father with the second set of kids.
"Starting all over with that whole process was very interesting."
There's no business
like show business
Griffin said his involvement in theater began for him in a high school play -- "The Marriage Proposal." The play was performed in a state competition and won.
He said he later pursued acting in college.
When he came to Soldotna to manage the auditorium, he also taught two drama classes. In 1986, he took over the responsibility of managing the Kenai Central High School Auditorium.
The responsibility expanded in 1988 when Nikiski High School opened. But managing auditoriums for the school district has not been the extent of Griffin's accomplishments.
Twin Cities Productions, a branch of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, formed in 1984 when oil money started drying up.
"It was bad economic times back then," he said. "So we tried to figure out something we could do so we could make money for the auditorium."
The idea worked and has since developed into what Griffin deems as a major music company that actively pursues events and professionals from all aspects of the entertainment world. To date, Twin Cities has brought in more than 100 performers.
Griffin said the varied aspects of his job is what makes it fun.
"What is so interesting about what I do, one day I could be helping an elementary concert and the next day I could be setting up a concert for Reba McEntire.
"My goal the last five years was to reestablish family musicals," he said, which started with "Hello Dolly."
Many could say he has achieved his goal. Through the years, Griffin has produced more than 60 drama productions and approximately 17 major musicals, including most recently "Hello Dolly," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Music Man," and "Annie Get Your Gun."
"There is nothing like a musical," he said.
Though musicals are fun for both the audience and the cast, Griffin said they often are expensive to present. With costumes, sets, the set director and royalties, shows usually cost between $15,000 to $30,000.
Despite the cost, Griffin said community theater is important.
"What's amazing is the quality of entertainment that we have within our community. There is so much talent. When you can do a 'Music Man' that has over 100 people in the cast, and then turn around while 'Music Man' is going on and cast 'Annie Get Your Gun,' which has over 50 members in the cast, that is saying something.
"I see this going for many years to come."
Carol Ford, a director with the Kenai Performers group, said she has worked with Griffin on six performances, including "Fireside Stories," "Noises Off," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Music Man" and "Diviners," their first production together.
"He just delights in theater," Ford said. "He just takes a great joy in making theater happen."
She said she has seen Griffin watch the show from the orchestra pit and other odd places. She said those who love theater love watching it any way they can.
"You don't ever get tired of new ways of looking at the show," she said.
Ford said it will be interesting to see how community theater will change when Griffin retires.
"When I think of Gordon retiring, I think of working in theater as a whole different ballgame," she said.
And theater isn't the only stage where Griffin has left his mark.
Joe Rizzo, the English teacher and drama, debate and forensics coach at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, said Griffin had a major impact on his life.
Griffin was his drama teacher at Soldotna High School, but Rizzo believes his relationship is much deeper than just a student.
"I am more like his son."
Griffin and his wife found out Rizzo was living in a tent his senior year in high school and invited him to live with them.
"He is one of the most influential persons in my life. He is the reason I went into teaching," Rizzo said. "He built memories for us in high school that nobody (else) did."
Rizzo said Griffin also helped him with his first teaching job in Wrangell. The school did not have a drama department and when his first production came up, he needed some assistance. He did not have to look far.
"Gordon was always there for technical advice" he said.
He said Griffin played a large part in bringing theater to the peninsula and keeping it here.
"Gordon has been the master of keeping the arts alive," he said.
Patrick Hickey, assistant superintendent for operation and business management for the school district, said he is envious of Griffin's ability to retire.
"I am a little jealous," he said. "He is well deserving of the opportunity."
Griffin and Hickey have seen each other weekly for the past four years. Hickey said in terms of production quality on the peninsula, Griffin leaves some big shoes to fill.
"He leaves the bar at a pretty high place," he said.
Katy Dempsey, who plays Chief Sitting Bull in "Annie Get Your Gun," said her first time working with Griffin and his wife, who is the music director of the play, has been great.
"I have never seen someone work that hard," she said. "There was never a moment when he lost his cool; he was very professional.
"I really believe they put in more work than any of us did -- hats off for that."
Exit stage left
Both Gordon and Debbie are retiring this year. Debbie is the music teacher at Redoubt Elementary School. Their last official day of work is in June.
"It really is an exciting time for us," he said.
Though they do not know for sure what the future holds, they are excited about what is to come.
"What is fun about this time of life is you just have so much to talk about. It is a fun time to talk about your dreams and what you want to do when you grow up and what you want to do with the rest of your life," he said. "I have always wanted to work on a golf course. Sometimes I can visualize myself riding down the fairway cutting the grass or working in the clubhouse."
Whatever the couple decides, Griffin said it will be something without a lot of pressure.
While many will miss Griffin in the world of Kenai Peninsula community theater, his impact will not soon be forgotten.
With "Annie Get Your Gun," as his last performance, Griffin said a musical was the perfect finale.
"I just like to leave a song in everyone's heart," he said.
Ford said she is glad Griffin got to do a big show before he retired.
"It looks like he is going out with a bang, reminding us of what we will miss when he is gone."
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