01/26/05 — Barbecue king's widow observes 100th birthday

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Barbecue king's widow observes 100th birthday

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 26, 2005 2:09 PM

Irene Griffin celebrated her 100th birthday on Tuesday, crediting her longevity to "not smoking, not drinking and eating right."

Mrs. Griffin, the widow of the late restauranteur Lloyd Griffin, worked part-time for years as a cashier in her husband's well-known barbecue restaurant on George Street. She lives at the Brian Center.

When asked if eating barbecue was the secret to her long life, she smiled and said, "Might be, might be."

Mrs. Griffin was born in Newton Grove, but moved to Goldsboro when she was eight years old. She went to college in Birmingham, Ala,, wherre she majored in art. She taught art for a few years in Alabama before moving back to Goldsboro, where she married and settled into helping her husband with his business.

On Tuesday, she was surrounded by friends and family celebrating her life.

A niece handed her a plastic cup of champagne with a straw, and Mrs. Griffin sipped gingerly from the cup.

"I don't drink," she said, "except on my 100th birthday."

Claire Starling, a close friend, says that what she usually drinks are milkshakes.

"She loves Frosty's from Wendy's," Ms. Starling said. "And I bring her one every week when I come visit."

Though Mrs. Griffin's parents died young, when she was still a child, her older sister lived to age of 97.

At 100, Mrs. Griffin said she lives only for the moment.

"I don't have any plans right now," she said. "Just living one day at a time."

Griffin's Barbecue Restaurant opened a few years after World War II, serving up barbecue until the mid-1960s.

Billy Thornton, a relative of Lloyd Griffin's, said he used to supply pigs for the restaurant.

"My daddy and I brought the pigs over in a truck from Newton Grove for him to make barbecue," Thornton said. Thornton said that Wilber Shirley, owner of Wilber's Barbecue Restaurant, learned how to cook barbecue from Griffin.

"He trained Wilber and looked after Wilber's family when he went off to war for a couple of years," Thornton said.

After Griffin sold his restaurant on George Street, he operated a restaurant at the Wayne Motel for a few years. He served as chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Mrs. Griffin said that the only thing she didn't like about the restaurant business was that her husband stayed open on Sundays.