Renwick (“Wick”) Griswold, 78, of Old Lyme, Connecticut, passed away on January 21 after a long illness.
Wick was a unique person who touched the lives of everyone who knew him. His infectious enthusiasm, essential humanity, and ready smile enabled him to connect with people of all ages and from all walks of life. He was a man of many interests, mot notably canoeing (or “drifting” as he preferred to call it), all things related to the Connecticut River (particularly shad, ferries, and conservation), history, reading, the New York Yankees, basset hounds, classic Volkswagens, candle making, and enjoying life with his wife Annie and a seemingly endless array of friends. His canoeing friends in the Connecticut River Drifting Society remember an annual calendar of drifts from New Year’s Day to late autumn, each drift a memorable adventure. His signature greeting, screaming “ROARRRR” while throwing both fists in the air, because a ritual part of every river outing.
Wick, the son of Abel and Helen Griswold, was born in New Britain, Connecticut on June 21, 1944 (he took great delight in celebrating his birthday on the summer solstice) and graduated from New Britain High School and the University of Hartford. He held many jobs in his youth, but his primary calling was as a sociology professor and he spent over three decades on the faculty of the University of Hartford until his retirement in 2018. “Gris”, as he was known to his students, was an engaging and much-beloved teacher; many former students credited him with being a transformational or life-changing influence. Environmental concerns and social justice were at the core of his classes and Wick inspired his students to become active in the community through service learning, including group activities such as river cleanups and overnight sleepouts to raise awareness and support for the homeless, along with spring break service learning trips to New Orleans, Texas, and Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes. He developed a course “Sociological Perspectives on the Connecticut River” in which students learned about life on the river, traveled out on the water, and participated in a cleanup of the shores of Great Island at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Later in his career, he wrote or co-authored a series of books for History Press about the Connecticut River, including A History of the Connecticut River and Connecticut Pirates and Privateers, and was associate producer of a documentary “Ferryboats of the Connecticut River” that was broadcast on CPTV in June of 2018. When he retired, the University of Hartford honored him with emeritus status and by creating the Hillyer College Wick Griswold Award for Service. Wick spent the last decade or so of his life living with Annie at Griswold Point at the mouth of the Connecticut River in Old Lyme. He loved looking out at Long Island Sound, his daily walk to the mouth of the Connecticut River, paddling in his canoe, and entertaining a steady stream of visitors. Wick remained active in retirement, giving talks about the Connecticut River, pursuing new writing projects including a ten-part radio drama, “Colonized” on the arrival of Europeans in the Connecticut River Valley, and hosting a regular show, “Connecticut River Drift” on I-CRV radio in Ivoryton. During his year-long final illness, Wick continued to live life to the fullest degree possible, roaming the world on his ever-present iPad. He was particularly grateful for a “rebound” from late spring into the autumn that enabled him to enjoy a few last baseball games, walks, paddles on the river, and outings with friends and family. All those who knew and loved Wick wish him a final “ROARRRR” as he drifts off into the Universe.
Wick is survived by his wife Annie Griswold, his son and daughter-in-law, Ray and Annette Guasp, his son and daughter-in-law Ralph Guasp and Andrea Gnazzo, his cousin Irving Austin, his brother-in-law Anthony Giorgio, his nieces Carla Giorgio and Molly Giorgio-Dial, three grandchildren, and a grandnephew. In addition to his parents, Wick is predeceased by his stepfather Art Wasserman and his sister, Nina Griswold Giorgio.