Josephine Thomas Griffin, the founding First Lady of Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church, will always be remembered for her beauty, grace, elegance and intelligence. The beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend went home to be with the Lord early Sunday morning, July 12, at her home in Riverview, Florida.
Sister Griffin’s life journey began on July 21, 1929 in Newville, Alabama, the second daughter of Neal and Naomi Thomas. She was preceded in death by her parents, her oldest brother, Willie Lee Thomas and her younger brother, James Thomas.
Growing up, she attended Rosenwald School in Newville and later received her high school diploma in Dothan, Alabama.
Through her brother-in-law Irvin (Earl), she met her beloved husband of 41 years, M.H. Griffin. The two were wed on September 1, 1951 in Dothan. Their union produced three children – Naomi Jenise, Cynthia Renae and Michael Harold.
The young couple started their life of ministry together very early. While in their early 20s, they took on the roles of deacon and deaconess at New Bethel Baptist Church in Dothan.
In search of a more prosperous life for their children, the Griffins moved to Naples in 1965. Their roles as deacon and deaconess continued for many years at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Naples. Furthermore, a love of music led Sister Griffin to sing in the church’s choir for many years and serve on various church boards. She also was responsible for starting a youth choir there.
Beyond her church work, Sister Griffin spent many years working as a seamstress, domestic worker and as a home care aide. Her hobbies enjoyed sewing, singing and playing the piano.
After many years in the ministry as a deacon and deaconess at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Naples, she and Reverend Griffin were led to start a church in Golden Gate. Their goal was to minister to the young families who were moving into the Naples area.
It was Sister Griffin who was the “unofficial architect’’ of Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church, drawing the design for the current edifice located at in Golden Gate Estates. Over the years, the pastor’s wife served in various capacities – singing in the choir, playing the piano, teaching Sunday School and working with the youth.
Reverend Griffin died on May 11, 1993, but Sister Griffin continued to serve the church faithfully until leaving Naples in 2007. For many years, she continued to support the church. Upon her passing, she was residing with family in Riverview.
Sister Griffin is survived by her daughters, Naomi Jenise Griffin of Riverview and Cynthia Griffin Cave (Charles) of Naples; son, Michael Harold Griffin of Naples; grandchildren, Jarod Dwan Walters of Naples and Jaysha Naomi Walters of Tampa; sisters, Evelyn Griffin of Tampa and Mary Katherine Kimble of Huntsville, Alabama; brother, Western Carolina Thomas of Pensacola; and a host of nieces and nephews, cousins and other relatives and friends.
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