Charles A. Griffeth of North Truro and Wilton Manors, Fla. died at his Truro home on Aug. 24, 2023 after a 15-month fight against pancreatic cancer. His husband and two daughters were by his side. He was 76.
Born in Lansing, Mich. on April 19, 1947 to Walter Leo and Frances (Wiltshire) Griffeth, Chuck spent most of his youth in the rolling hills of Newfield, just outside of Ithaca, N.Y.
At an early age, Chuck developed a love for all things musical: vocal performance, tenor sax, piano, musical theater, opera. At the Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa., he was part of a notable touring quartet, “The Defenders.”
Soon thereafter he decided to follow his musical calling and transferred to Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, where he received a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance in 1974. He earned a master’s in music from Ithaca College in 1977.
His becoming a music teacher was a blessing for thousands of students in Elmira and Horseheads, N.Y. Chuck taught at Horseheads High School from 1984 to 2002. His warmth and open-door policy for students was life-changing for many who felt unseen or misunderstood.
As his students put it in a Facebook group formed in his honor in January 2023, Chuck “did more than teach — he made a difference to hundreds of students, uplifting us through his love of music and his kindness.” Six hundred forty-seven students joined the Facebook group.
Chuck’s influence as a teacher and theater director and producer was magnified by collaboration with his husband, Kimber Billow. The two were a dynamic duo.
His music credits included Tri-Cities Opera, the New York State School Music Association, the American Choral Directors Association, the Elmira Star Gazette’s Teacher of the Year award, cofounder of Summer Festival Players, board member of the Provincetown Repertory Theater, and accompanist for the Outer Cape Chorale.
After 30 years of teaching music, Chuck retired, only to begin a second career with the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown. This made perfect sense: he had always reveled in nature’s beauty, and he always loved Provincetown.
Chuck cherished hiking the forests and gorges of the Finger Lakes and the dunes of the Atlantic coastline. He never missed an opportunity to jump into the ocean and ride the waves or float through the tidal pools of Herring Cove. Nature was his church and his refuge, and he enjoyed sharing his love and knowledge of the natural world.
He had an immense vocabulary and was a trivia master and a crossword aficionado. Chuck was Provincetown’s walking encyclopedia. His fondness for maps, geography, and travel also made him a wonderful tour guide. His self-appointed title of director of the “Haphazard Tours” was gratefully accepted by all who were fortunate enough to travel with him. His motto was “Every traveler is guaranteed a fairly good time.”
And those who had him as a driver during his three seasons at Art’s Dune Tours in Provincetown may have received the bonus of hearing his tenor voice singing “Old Cape Cod.” His daughters hold dear the hours of traveling in the car with him, learning and repeating songs that made their trips joyful.
In March, the Horseheads Central School District honored Chuck with a concert at Elmira’s Clemens Center. The stage overflowed with students singing many of Chuck’s favorites.
He was a lover of animals with a soft spot for cats, and he never lost the tally of his “lifetime fox count.”
Chuck had the ability to see good in everyone, and he was a champion for the underdog. He cherished his time as a volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Provincetown and as a member of its board.
Chuck is survived by his husband, Kimber Billow of North Truro; daughters Erin Griffeth of Ithaca, N.Y. and Megan (Griffeth) Cochran and husband Benjamin Cochran of Holbrook; granddaughters Hannah Griffeth Kinsella of Detroit and Riley and Emily Griffeth Cochran of Holbrook; brother James Griffeth and wife Esther of Bloomington, Ill.; two sisters, Sarah Couture and husband Jon of Centerville, Ohio and Mary Wimer and husband Ken of Shreveport, La.; and many nieces and nephews.
Contributions in Chuck’s memory may be made to the Soup Kitchen in Provincetown or the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter.
A celebration of Chuck’s life will be held in June 2024 at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Provincetown, with further details to be announced.