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John Robert Griffis, helped found Hallwalls Gallery; Nov. 19, 1925 -- Dec. 18, 2011

Former Buffalo entrepreneur John "Jack" Robert Griffis, also credited with helping establish the Hallwalls Art Gallery, died in Epoch of Harwich, a senior facility in Massachusetts, on Dec. 18. He was 86.

Born in the Town of Tonawanda, he was a graduate of Nichols School. Following graduation, he served in World War II as an enlisted ambulance driver for the American Field Service in Burma.

Several years later, Mr. Griffis and his brother, the late Larry W. Griffis, filled the shortage of wartime nylon by creating Fantashere, a women's hosiery business that operated until 1958.

Eventually, Mr. Griffis' lifelong bent for humor and acting led him to New York City, where he worked in modeling and television commercials. He became a top model at Ford Models, one of the nation's top modeling agencies.

His modeling work led him to live in New York City and travel the world. Eventually, he returned home to Buffalo in the 1970s and lived in semiretirement at the Ashford Hollow Foundation on Essex Street.

From there, he became the first financial donor to help create Hallwalls Art Gallery.

Mr. Griffis eventually retired to Provincetown, Mass., with his longtime companion, Patricia Larby, who died in 2009.

Survivors include a brother, Roderick L. Griffis. His late brother, Larry, founded the Griffis Sculpture Park in Ashford, near Ellicottville.

A service will be scheduled at a later date.

[K/ROBINSON]

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