Griffin Funeral Home (Chicago) Built On Site Of Camp Douglas Closing At End Of Year

Dec 30, 2005
Griffin Funeral Home...built on site of Civil War POW camp

Shamus Tomey
Chicago Sun Times
12 November 2007

On New Year's Eve, when people around the city are celebrating, tears will be shed in a funeral home at 32nd and King Drive.
This time, the tears will be for the funeral home itself.

After 60 years, Griffin Funeral Home will close its doors.
The Griffins are retiring, and they don't want to sell the business. So they're selling the nearly 1 acre where the funeral home sits in the Gap neighborhood and moving on.

"I have mixed feelings about it," said CEO Alyce C. Griffin, 89. "It's something that you labored with, and you watched it grow, and you had many experiences with. I'm glad to retire, to a certain extent, but yet, I'll miss it. It's meant a lot to me."

The children of Alyce Griffin and her husband, the late Ernest A. Griffin, helped run the parlor for years. But the children -- president E. Dawn Griffin-O'Neal and vice president Pearl Griffin-Martin -- are ready to move on, too.
Developers have come knocking, but no offers have been accepted yet. Letting someone else run the funeral home was not an option. "We would never sell the family name. Never," said O'Neal. "It means too much."
The African-American-owned business is also part of another unique chapter in local history. It sits on land that was once Camp Douglas, a Civil War camp used to house Confederate prisoners of war. About 6,000 Confederates died from disease and exposure there -- and they are memorialized on the Heritage Memorial Wall outside the funeral home. It includes a Confederate flag flown at half-staff.

"They were the sons of God before they were the sons of man," O'Neal said.

Ernest Griffin, who died in 1995, was the driving force behind the memorial and the Civil War memorabilia that fill the funeral home. He became fascinated with the war after learning about Camp Douglas, and then learning his own grandfather, Charles H. Griffin, joined the Union Army at Camp Douglas in 1864.

That realization came after the Griffins bought the former Camp Douglas land....

Griffin-O'Neal says her dad would want the business to be remembered as a place "where services were executed as close to perfection as possible" by a family of principle.

But that family is ready to retire.

"On Dec. 31, we'll tear. We'll cry," said O'Neal. "Then we'll lock the door."
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Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Feb 20, 2005
Near Kankakee
Had the pleasure of hearing Ernest Griffin talk at the local RT. He insisted on flying the CBF and earned some hostility from his neighbors for it.

It's too long ago to remember exactly, but I think his grandfather fought at Petersburg. I do remember that somehow he had recovered the sword of an officer of his Grandfathers Company.

Interesting gentleman.


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