May 23, 2001 – Plans are being laid to hold a memorial service on St. John for longtime island businessman Peter Griffith, whose claim to fame nationally was as the father of actress Melanie Griffith, but who was known locally as the longtime owner of the Holiday Homes real estate company.
Griffith sold the company in 1992 to its current owner, Miles Stair, then moved to New Mexico, where he died in a Santa Fe hospital on May 14 of complications from emphysema. He was 67.
The memorial service on St. John is tentatively planned for June 15 at Dennis Bay, where Griffith lived for years. Before confirming the date, "We want to speak with the family, to be sure the time works for them," Stair said Tuesday.
Funeral services were private. A memorial service is scheduled on June 20 at the Griffith family ranch in Sinton, Tex. Griffith's ashes will be placed in the family cemetery on the ranch, longtime St. John friend and business associate Ruth "Sis" Frank said Tuesday.
Frank recalled that Griffith first began visiting St. John in the 1960s, staying at rental properties of Holiday Homes, the company Frank and her husband, Carl, had founded.
Griffith "was a successful advertising executive in New York," she said. "His company, Motion Associates on Madison Avenue, won several Clio awards — the Oscars of advertising — for Best Ad of the Year." When it was time to head back to the fast-paced business after a laid-back vacation on St. John, she recalled, "His wife would say 'He's putting his New York face on.'"
He sold his advertising firm and moved to St. John permanently around 1971, Frank said, and took up residence in the just-completed property known as the Eagle's Nest. After Carl Frank's death in 1972, he joined Sis Frank as a partner in Holiday Homes and the St. John Insurance Agency. The following year, he became the sole owner of both businesses.
"The real estate field was growing rapidly, and Peter enjoyed the fast-paced business," Frank said.
Griffith lived for more than 20 years at Dennis Bay Plantation, located on St. John's North Shore adjacent to Trunk Bay. Frank recalled that he had his own Tapanyaki table there for Japanese-style tableside meal preparation. "He was a superb chef," she said. He was active in the local Board of Realtors and Coastal Zone Management Committee and the St. John Lions Club. He would grill hundreds of steaks at Lions fund-raisers, taking the heat for hours on end although he burned both hands in the process, Frank recalled.
Stair said he first met Griffith in 1973 and went to work for him in the real estate business in 1985. "He sold me the company in 1992," Stair said.
"Like all successful businessmen, Peter drove a hard bargain," Frank said, "but there was a very kind side to his personality. He was very kind to me."
Despite his years of success in the real estate business, he never owned property personally on St. John, she said.
Griffith was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1933. He began acting professionally as a child in New York. He had distinguished military service in the Korean War.
He was an actor when he first married, to actress Tippi Hedren. They are the parents of Melanie. He and his second wife, Nita, had two children, Tracy, who is also an actress, and Clay, a successful film producer. His third wife, Marianne, ran a designer fashion shop on St. Thomas with Rosemary O'Connell, Frank said. He was married to fourth wife Daryl for most of the time that he lived on St. John. After moving to New Mexico and becoming a rancher, he married his fifth wife, Debbie.
Following her father's death, Melanie Griffith issued a statement through her publicist stating that the actress, her sister and brother Clay "so appreciate all of your concern and compassion for this very special man, and they hope that the press will respect his family's privacy during this time."

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