BY FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
Josephine Thomas Griffin, the founding first lady of Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Naples, died on July 12 at her home in Riverview, Florida after a long illness. She was 90.
She was the mother of Jenise Griffin, publisher of the Daytona Times and Florida Courier.
Mrs. Griffin was born on July 21, 1929 in Newville, Alabama to Neal and Naomi Thomas. She attended Rosenwald School in Newville and received her high school diploma in Dothan, Alabama.
At age 22, she married M.H. Griffin and they became the youngest deacon and deaconess at New Bethel Baptist Church in Dothan.
The Griffins moved to Naples in 1965. Their roles as deacon and deaconess continued for many years at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Naples.
Beyond her church work, Mrs. Griffin spent many years working as a seamstress, domestic worker and as a home health care aide.
The Griffins were led to start a church in 1982 with the goal of ministering to young
families who were moving into the Naples area.
It was Mrs. Griffin who was the “unofficial architect’’ of Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church, drawing the design for the current edifice located at 1620 39th Street SW., Naples. 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.
Rev. Griffin died on May 11, 1993, but Mrs. Griffin continued to serve the church faithfully until leaving Naples in 2007. Upon her passing, she was residing with family in Riverview.
A private family service was held on July 17 at Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church with interment at Naples Memorial Gardens.
Mrs. Griffin is survived by her daughters, Jenise Griffin of Riverview and Cynthia Griffin Cave (Charles) of Naples; son, Michael Griffin of Naples; grandchildren, Jarod Walters of Naples and Jaysha Walters of Riverview; sisters, Evelyn Griffin of Tampa and Mary Kimble of Huntsville, Alabama; brother, W.C. Thomas of Pensacola; and other relatives.
Hickson Funeral Home of Fort Myers was in charge of arrangements.
Donations can be made in her memory to Unity Faith Baptist Church, P.O. Box 990639, Naples, FL 34116.