Vern Griffith, former Mayor, dies

Former Butte Mayor Vern “Hanna” Griffith, the Montana Director of the Federal Office of Economic Opportunity, died Monday morning.  He was 57.

He had suffered a heart attack eight days ago while hunting.  He entered St. James Community Hospital last Monday and remained in intensive care since.

His wife, Celeste, whom he married in 1938 in Butte, died last Jan. 8.  They had four children. The family home is at 1715 Grand.

Born in Butte Feb. 16, 1915, Vern Griffith attended local grade schools, Butte High and Butte Business College.  After a stint with the Anaconda Co., he worked for various wholesale and retail grocery companies and for 10 years until 1956 was a partner in the old Main Cash Grocery.  The next three years he operated his own interstate truck line out of Butte.

He was elected in 1959 as mayor to succeed W. P. Donnelly, whom he had defeated in the primary.  In 1961 he was re-nominated and re-elected, the first time in Butte’s modern history a mayor was returned to office without primary or general election opposition.

            He was chosen again in 1963, but resigned the following Jan. 3 to take federal appointment and was replaced by Alderman Tom Powers by council vote.

During the 1961 term Griffith was elected president of the Montana Municipal League, now the Montana League of Cities and Towns.

During his youth he was an outstanding speed skater and years afterward was president of the state association when it produced many topflight boys and girl performers, including his own children.

A onetime catcher in the old Butte Copper League, Griffith also managed the South Side AC team and served as a league commissioner at large. He was an inveterate hunter and fisherman and an accomplished bowler.

Butte Fourth of July and other civic celebrations were developed while he was mayor, and Griffith himself did much work in design and preparation of outstanding floats.  He was Fourth of July parade marshal for 25 years.

Griffith was also a member of Summit Valley Lodge 23 AF&AM, Butte Elks Lodge 240, United Commercial Travelers, Scottish Rite Bodies and Bagdad Temple of the Shrine.

He is survived by sons-in-law and daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Williams of Helena and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Moodry of Butte; sons and a daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Griffith and Richard Griffith all of Butte; a brother,  Donald of Idaho Falls; step-brothers, Robert Griffith of Helena, William Griffith of Butte and Gene Griffith of Seattle; his step-mother, Margaret Griffith of Butte, and seven grandchildren, Griff, Erin and Whitney Williams of Helena and Marc, Sean, Stacey and Steve Moodry of Butte.

Funeral services will be Wednesday at 1:30 in the First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Thomas Smatla officiating.  Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens.

Elks Lodge 240 will conduct memorial services Tuesday at 7:30 in Sayatovic-White’s Funeral Home. Memorials may be made to Hope Ranch at Poplar or to a favorite charity.

The Montana Standard
Butte, Montana
Tuesday, November 14, 1972-Page 1


Celeste Griffith dies at 54

     Mrs. Celeste Griffith, 54, of 1715 Grand, wife of former Butte Mayor Vern Hanna Griffith, died Saturday in a Missoula hospital following a brief illness.

     Mrs. Griffith was born in Boulder September 19, 1917 and moved to Butte with her parents. She worked as a receptionist for Butte doctors and was married in 1938.

     Mrs. Griffith was an Elder of the Presbyterian Church and member of Ruth Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, the Daughters of the Nile, Sons of Daughters of Montana Pioneers, the Montana Speed Skating Association, a past board member of the Camp Fire Girls, den mother of Pack 7 of the Cub Scouts and active in fund raising drives for the Heart, Polio and Cancer funds.

     Survivors include her husband, Vern of Butte, sons-in-law and daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Pat Williams of Helena and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Moodry of Butte, sons and daughters-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Griffith and Richard Griffith all of Butte; sisters, Evelyn Farren and Mrs. John Grant, both of Butte, and brother, William McCall of San Francisco.

     Services will be at 2 Tuesday in the First Presbyterian Church.  The body will lie in state in the church from Tuesday morning, when it will be taken from Sayatovic-White’s Funeral Home.  Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens.  The order of the Eastern Start No. 2 and the Daughters of the Niles will have services.

The Montana Standard
Butte, Montana
Sunday, January 9, 1972-Page 3.