Wilson Moore Griffing Jr., a 12th-generation Long Islander and a nearly lifelong resident of Amagansett, died of cardiac arrest on March 23 at a nursing home in Freeport after a prolonged period of failing health. He was 85.
Mr. Griffing, who was known as Sonny, was born in Amagansett on Aug. 14, 1927, to Wilson Griffing and the former Irene Gosman. He grew up on Main Street. When his father died in 1977, Mr. Griffing inherited the house he was born in and continued to live there until the time of his own death.
After graduating from East Hampton High School, he served in the Navy for two years. He later attended Clarkson University, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 1951.
Mr. Griffing worked as an engineer at General Electric in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He later worked for the United States Postal Service in both Philadelphia and Amagansett.
Described by his family and neighbors as a hidden treasure, Mr. Griffing was known as a “self-sufficient . . . gentleman” who led a “frugal, determined, solitary life.” He never had a car or television, and traveled around on an “ancient bicycle.” He was described as a “sort of local icon to some, who admired his determination to live life authentically and as he wished.”
He was a passionate stamp collector with an impressive collection, sometimes finding his quarries in the recycling bins at the post office or through friends and neighbors.
His neighbors welcomed the annual harvest of beans and fruits from a large garden that he tended. He was also known for having a sweet tooth, “finding it hard to make the gift of an entire plate of sweets last more than one day.”
Mr. Griffing is survived by several nieces, a nephew, and many cousins.
A memorial service is planned for May 1 at 1 p.m. at the Amagansett Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Steven Howarth will officiate.