Frederick Lemual Griffith, 94, died February 12th, 2021 at home with family by his side. Fred was born on September 4th, 1926 in Pueblo, Colorado to Theodore Isaac Griffith and Ruth Evelyn (Smith) Griffith.
During the Depression, the Griffiths moved to Blanca, CO where his father worked in the icehouse, one of many jobs Fred would working during his time of living in Blanca. His dad was also the town marshal. While others were out of work, his dad always had work available in which he enlisted Fred and his brother Ted to help.
Fred graduated in 1944 from Blanca High School as Valedictorian of his class. Soon after, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Ft. Leavenworth for a week of preparation then on to Ft. Walters in Texas for basic training. From there, he went on to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for parachute school where he learned to pack a chute and be ready to go. Fred said that the first jump “scared the hell out of him”. He was then sent to Sendai Honshu Province in Japan where he was in the 11th Airborne working in the mail department. Being in the mail room did not keep him from jumping however as paratroopers had to jump at least once a year. Fred returned to the States two years later and was honorably discharged in San Francisco. From there, he went back to Pueblo and ultimately back to Blanca where he worked on the family ranch raising cows.
Fred went on to Fort Collins to go to college on the GI Bill. He then went back to Pueblo to help family and started to work at the CF&I. It was only supposed to be temporary but he ended up working in the Coke plant as a chemist for 17 years. He met Elsie Simonich at CF&I and they were married on February 3rd, 1951. They were married 67 years in 2018. Elsie died later that year. They had two daughters, Julie Spezze and Susanne Denwalt.
Fred and Elsie moved to Salida in 1966. They bought the Shawano Motel (now Loyal Duke’s Lodge) on Highway 50. It was one of the first hotels to have a covered swimming pool and color TVs. They operated the motel for 9 years. In July 1975, Fred and Elsie wanted to take the girls for a picnic. They drove to the Boys Market at 11:00 in the morning to get chicken and they were already sold out. Fred said “what this town needs is a Kentucky Fried Chicken”. So in 1976 they opened the first fast food restaurant in Chaffee County. Fred and Elsie operated the KFC for 24 years. They really enjoyed the KFC and met so many wonderful people along the way. In 1990 they built a new store with a drive-thru (now Pueblo Bank and Trust). Fred was an entrepreneur in the business. He would come up with new products and he put in the buffet and also Taco Bell. He prided himself on running a clean and good restaurant. In 1997 he sold the store to his girls. He retired in 2004. The girls sold the restaurant in 2008, ending the business after 32 years.
Fred was a Mason for 50 years and held several degrees. He was also a member of the VFW. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, and pilot. He, Elsie, and the girls had taken several trips around Colorado and California. In his later years, he and Elsie would go salmon fishing up in Alaska.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, and wife.
Survivors include his two daughters Julie Spezze and Susanne (Jeff) Denwalt; granddaughters Olivia Denwalt and Lily Spezze; and one grandson Jacob Denwalt.
Due to COVID-19, there will be a graveside service held on Saturday February 20th, 2021 at 12:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Mason Lodge #57 and the VFW through Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home.
Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.lewisandglenn.com. Arrangements were with Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home.
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