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Richard Griffith, artist and teacher, dies

Richard Griffith, a Long Island artist and former

Richard Griffith, a Long Island artist and former Mattituck High School art teacher, died of natural causes on July 3, 2012 at his home in the suburbs of Tampa, Fla. He was 81. Newsday's obituary for Richard Griffith
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Richard Griffith, a Long Island artist and former Mattituck High School art teacher, died on July 3 at his home in the suburbs of Tampa, Fla., from natural causes. He was 81.

During his career, Griffith explored numerous media and styles such as abstract airbrush paintings and furniture design. His work was exhibited at museums and galleries across Long Island.

Teaching was his first love, his wife, Grace Griffith, said. Richard Griffith taught art at Mattituck for nearly two decades until 1986. He also taught at Southampton College and Suffolk County Community College, according to his family.

"He loved his students," Griffith, 79, said. "I think they loved him, too."

Richard Griffith was born in Brooklyn in February 1931. He joined the Air Force in 1949 after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, according to his son, Keith Douglas Griffith, 53, who lives in the suburbs of Tampa. While stationed at Mitchel Field, he met his future wife, Grace Schenck, on a blind date on St. Patrick's Day 1950.

"I thought he looked like Frank Sinatra," she said.

The couple married in 1953. He got his bachelor's degree from Adelphi a year later, according to the son. He went on to get a master's degree in art education from Western State College in Colorado in 1964, according to his son.

Griffith taught in Riverhead for a few years before the family moved to Laurel and he took a job teaching art in Mattituck.

He taught his students a wide breadth of art, including lettering, pottery, jewelry-making and silk-screening, Keith Griffith said.

"All students who took his classes got their hands dirty doing all types of art," he said.

He sold many of his pieces to collectors or gave them away to friends and colleagues, Keith Griffith said.

After retiring from teaching, Griffith continued his longtime hobby of collecting comic art. "He started to read comic books when he was a kid," Keith Griffith said.

Griffith's extensive collection made local news in Tampa after he moved to Florida in 2003. The Tampa Tribune ran a profile of Griffith in 2004 highlighting his comic collection, which was organized in "70 large loose-leaf notebooks, alphabetized by artist," according to the article.

Griffith told the Tribune he started the collection in 1970. "There is no other source as complete as this," he was quoted as saying in the article. "Believe me, I've looked."

Griffith is survived by his wife Grace; three children, Keith; Patricia Cunningham, 52, of Tampa, Fla., and Richard Scott Griffith, 50, of Richardson, Texas; sister Elizabeth Betty Johnsen; and three grandchildren.

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