Title: Pediatrician
Birthdate: September 8, 1872
Death Date: June 18, 1970
Plot Location: Section 121, Lot 45, east half

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Like his father, William Orlando Griggs, Bill was a physician, but his specialty was pediatrics, children’s healthcare. Perhaps that’s what made him so young at heart, even into his nineties. 

The Griggs family tree can be traced back to their first arrival in Massachusetts in 1639. Bill was the oldest of four children, and went to Central High School in Philadelphia. He graduated from Hahnemann Medical College in 1894, then served as a resident at St. Luke’s Hospital. He studied pediatrics at the Finkelstein Clinic in Berlin, Germany, and returned to become chief of pediatrics at both Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and St. Luke’s for more than fifty years.

When the new century began in 1900 Bill began a new life, marrying Emma Heininger and making a home on North Tenth Street, within walking distance of St. Luke’s. They had no children of their own but, by his count, Bill presided over 600 births during his long career. 

In 1925 he established the Well Baby Clinic at St. Luke’s. Through the years he was also a professor at Hahnemann and could have retired comfortably in the mid-1930s. That was when the Social Security Act was passed, creating an old-age pension program. Bill understood the need to help those who couldn’t work, but he was vocally opposed to compulsory retirement at a fixed age. “What a waste it is,” he said, “to the individual and to society to force people into stagnation.”

He refused to stop, even after Emma died in 1945 and he was in his 70s. For a brief period he served at a hospital in Scotland and consulted by mail with the young Queen Elizabeth.  One night in 1955 he received a telegram from the Vatican asking advice on how to treat Pope Pius XII for hiccups. 

Bill remained in the same home for decades because of its proximity to work, but the neighborhood had changed. After he married a widow named Irene Gains in 1958 he set up an office in their new home in Jenkintown. He would always smile as he introduced her, saying, “I won’t soon forget how we first met.”  He was the doctor that helped bring her into the world.

In 1965 several newspapers covered an an outpouring of accolades at an event recognizing his many years of service, as described here. In addition to tributes given by his colleagues, Mayor James H.J. Tate presented him with the City of Philadelphia Citation. In typical Griggs style he expressed his gratitude with this humble response:

Bill kept going doing what he loved for another five years until he was stopped by congestive heart failure. This “ledger grave” for him and Emma indicates there was one integral part of his life that the newspapers failed to mention, his strong spiritual life. It was his deep love of God that overflowed to his love for others and his reverence for the sanctity of human life.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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