Kenneth Griffiths
Kenneth Griffiths

Obituary of Kenneth Andrew Griffiths

Kenneth Andrew Griffiths, Sr. (Capt. Andy) was born November 29, 1930, in New Haven, CT., to Harry and Matilda (Umbrick) Griffiths, the last of their nine children. Harry moved the family to the Opa-Locka area of Miami when Andy was a toddler. Andy developed a strong work ethic early in life delivering the Miami Herald in the morning and Miami News in the afternoon to the Navy base in Opa-Locka. When he was 16, Harry threw him out of the house. His sister-in-law Margaret (Bill) saw him walking by with his suitcase and invited him in to stay with them until he enlisted in the Army after his 17th birthday. He was stationed in England where he purchased a car which he used to tour Europe with his Army buddies. Ever the entrepreneur, he rented his car out and rode a bus, buying bonds with the money he made. When he and Dana married, he had $600 in bonds. He met the love of his life, Audrey Dana, in late December 1955. A childhood friend of Andy’s, Herbie Brackett, asked Dana to bring a girlfriend, and the four went to New Year’s at Brownie’s Bar in Opa Locka. While dancing, Andy asked her for a date. He brought a flask of Vodka & OJ and took her to a drive-in movie. He proposed 3 months later. She said yes and he asked “when.” She was living at home with her mother at the time and just wanted to assure they would have their own place. She didn’t know that brother Bill was in Real Estate and a proper rental was quickly secured for the young couple. They were married March 16, 1956, in his sister Marian’s home. Andy planned every detail including the gladiolas. A month later the newlyweds honeymooned in Montego Bay. Another brother, Buddy, had a construction company where Andy worked making steppingstones and curbing. He also worked at a pickle factory and a chicken place before being hired by Budweiser as a truck driver. His next job as a route driver for Kraft foods took him to the Florida Keys every week or so. He frequently took his fishing pole, and the dye was cast; he fell in love with the Keys. In 1966, he was working as an agent for Independent Life Insurance Company and fishing in Key West every weekend. His friend, Mr. Jackson, owned a seafood market in Liberty City where Andy would sell his catch. One of daughter Brenda’s favorite memories was occasionally being allowed to skip school on Friday if she “volunteered” to go fishing with him. He told his buddies at work “my daughter matched me fish for fish,” a complement she has always treasured. After being held up at gunpoint he decided to move his family to Key West in 1970 to fish commercially full time. The “Conch” local fishermen were not welcoming to an outsider, but Capt. Andy persisted, eventually adding his own “Conch” to the family when Eddie was born in 1971. Realizing quickly that fin fishing alone would not suffice, he joined the lobster fishery. Despite costly vandalism (the locals would sink his lobster traps), low catches, and many other trials, he built a very successful fishing and charter business with the help of a couple of kind local fishermen and his own unbelievable perseverance. His sons would mention the “slave labor” provided by them!! Three of their four sons reside in Key West with Eddie and his family still living in the original family home. They all agree that Capt. Andy’s dream job wasn’t so bad for them either despite the hard work that comes with being in a commercial fishing family. Andy Jr., recounts that after a 12-hour summer day pulling lobster traps, they would anchor near the first trap to be pulled the next morning. They slept while other fisherman went home, unloaded, cleaned boats, ate dinner, and sleeping in their own beds in blissful A/C! Those guys were rousted out of bed at 4:30 a.m. while on the Audrey D crew slept in until sunrise, saving a lot of time as well as fuel costs. Lobster fishing was Capt. Andy’s primary occupation, but he occasionally took “wilderness” groups out to the Dry Tortugas National Park. These trips evolved into the charter boat fishing and diving business – all without proper licensing. Only Capt. Andy could have succeeded this way for over 2 decades – and no one died! The Captain was very popular with his clients, many of whom became good friends. One special client, Verella, was brought first by her parents, then with her friends, followed by her husband and her own children. A 30+ year friendship included Capt. Andy attending Verella & Ed’s wedding at Chalet Suzanne. Eventually, Capt. Andy owned and managed a small fleet of boats which made overnight fishing trips. Even though he “mostly” retired in the late 1990’s, he continued to enjoy life fishing trash out of the harbor and yelling at people who did what he considered stupid things on his Stock Island property. A loud “UNBELIEVABLE” was sure to make some smile, unless it was directed at you. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 convinced Dana to escape hurricane threats and move to higher ground. Brenda was in the process of moving from Miami to a retirement community in Winter Haven. One trip to check the place out and Dana bought a house with a water and preserve view in Lake Ashton. Andy figured it was her turn to choose a lifestyle so in 2006 they left their Key West home of 36 years. His children were all concerned as to what Capt. Andy would find to do in such a place, but their fears were groundless. He loved riding around the community in their golf cart making new friends, taking first Mandy & Lil’Bit, then Pebbles, to the dog parks, and stopping in to visit anyone who left their garage door open! He actually wore out four sets of tires on their golf cart. Capt. Andy maintained his friendships in Key West, driving 8 hours each month to visit and collect loan payments. He always preferred cash to checks, and the trips kept him in touch with “home.” Andy Jr. was frequently greeted on the docks with “how’s your dad,” after an accident on Card Sound Road stopped the monthly visits. The dreaded Alzheimer’s diagnosis came after he was brought home by neighbors while driving about lost in the community. He and Dana continued to play cards with Judy, Lynn, and Ann Marie but the rules had to be progressively simplified. Eventually he spent more and more time in front the television, but we all knew he never watched a football game in his life. It was difficult to accept but we knew he was failing as he slept more than he watched. The Capt. sailed peacefully from this life December 29th at home, surrounded by his First Mate and three of his deck hands. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Audrey Dana, daughter Brenda Mitchell Poe (Richard), Winter Haven, sons Andy, Jr., Key West, Stephen (Carolina), Winter Haven, Michael, Key West, and Capt. Eddie (Amanda), also of Key West. Grandchildren include Emily, Allison, Callie, & Nico of Key West, Michael & Marija of Winter Haven. No local service is planned at this time, but a Celebration of Captain Andy’s colorful life will take place in Key West at a date and time to be announced.
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