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J. Donald Griffin, county probation officer, POW

Aug. 9, 1923 – Aug. 11, 2014

J. Donald Griffin, of Cheektowaga, a retired Erie County probation officer who survived for 14 months in German prisoner of war camps in World War II, died Monday. He was 91.

Born in Lackawanna, he was president of his graduating class at Buffalo School 9 in 1937 and graduated from Kensington High School in 1941.

Mr. Griffin served in the Army Air Forces in World War II, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

Assigned to the 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, in England, he was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress.

He was captured March 6, 1944, after he parachuted from his bomber when it was struck by enemy fire outside Hamburg, Germany, and held in four POW camps before he was liberated May 1, 1945.

Returning from service, Mr. Griffin attended the University of Buffalo on the GI Bill. Graduating in 1949, he joined the Erie County Probation Department, where he served for 35 years, retiring in 1984.

A member of the American Legion for 65 years, he was past commander of Kensington Post 708 and served as Erie County commander in 1957. He also was the Erie County American Legion Americanism chairman.

Mr. Griffin was a former 8th District American Legion baseball chairman and was active in the Legion baseball program for more than 30 years.

Earlier this year, he was presented the Department Commander’s Award of Excellence by State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor.

He also was a life member of Pvt. Leonard Post Jr. Post 6251, Veterans of Foreign Wars; a past commander of the Western New York Chapter of American Ex-POWs; and a member of the Forty & 8 Society, which he served as vice chairman of the National Distinguished Guest Committee.

Mr. Griffin gave talks at local schools about the American flag and the veterans who fought in World War II.

Active in Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, he was a member of the Holy Name Society and the Chapel Seniors. He also was a former lector and altar server.

His wife of 53 years, Jean M. White Griffin, died in 2006.

Survivors include three sons, Gregory J., Paul J. and Thomas J.; a daughter, Barbara J. Whitte; a sister, Mary Rita Felix; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady Help of Christians Church, 4125 Union Road, Cheektowaga.

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