Leonella “Lenny” Griffith

January 23, 1926 - November 19, 2019

Service: Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated by the family at The Church of St. Mary, Larchwood, Iowa, with burial at Larchwood Cemetery.

       Leonella Marie (Lenny) Griffith (neVan Ash) died at the age of 93 on November 19, 2019.

      Lenny was born on January 23, 1926 in Larchwood, Iowa, daughter of Sophie (Friessen) and Henry Van Ash.  She attended and graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School.  After graduation she moved to Sioux Falls, SD and worked for an optometrist. She married Robert Griffith, and raised nine children.

     Lenny worked the graveyard shift at Otis Radio. She was a secretary at the food stamp office in Canton until the family moved to Sioux Falls. She then transferred to the Sioux Falls office. Lenny retired as the supervisor after working for the state for 25 years. She also worked for Murphy’s Tax Service, H&R Block, and Country Apple Orchard. She was loved and respected by her coworkers. Lenny had an excellent work ethic and taught her children that working hard was a good thing.

       Lenny was a member of St. Chrysostom Catholic Church in Canton, SD, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sioux Falls, SD and the last years of her life St. Dominic‘s Catholic Church in Canton, SD.  Lenny’s strong faith guided her throughout her life.

      Lenny had many hobbies that she was good at and enjoyed doing. Dancing – she loved to dance and could cut a mean rug. Golf – she didn’t learn to play until later in life, but she was a quick learner. She was steady down the middle and excellent around the green. Gardening – the bouquets she made were exceptional. If you were lucky enough to receive one from her, you’d be amazed at how talented she was and thankful for such a beautiful gift given with such love. Playing cards – she loved to play cards but she especially loved playing cribbage with any one of her five sons.  This was cherished time they enjoyed together.  Anyone who ever played cards with Lenny, knew she played to win. She loved to win at everything! Her grandkids and great-grandkids new Grandma Lenny never just let you win. You had to earn it and learned that losing was okay.  Spending time with her grandchildren was one of her great joys in life. She always had a grandchild or a great-grandchild on her lap. They all shared special moments with her and they knew she love them with all her heart. Lenny‘s brown popcorn was always available and out on the counter.  No matter if you made it exactly as she did, no one could emulate that most satisfying of snacks. It was hers alone and she made it with love, and with a good amount of salt.

      Lenny always showed her children unconditional love. The values her nine children aspire to follow, are there because of what they learned from her. Their success and expressing their values, this kindness, this compassion, patience, and gentleness is born of her teaching and her grace.

      Lenny is among those of whom we must say we live our lives better because of her. And perhaps we can remember to celebrate this day each year for the blessing of her in our lives. She was greatly loved and will be missed by many.

     Grateful for having shared her life are her nine children; Nicholas Griffith, Richfield, MN, Linda Handy, Tea, SD, Jim Griffith, Yankton, SD, Ginger (Dave) Gard, Canton, SD, Deborah (Dave) Sehr, Plankington, SD, Richard Griffith, Sioux Falls, SD, John Griffith, Sioux Falls, SD, Brian (Karen) Griffith, Rapid City, SD, Jacq Johns, Sioux Falls, SD; 19 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren; 3 siblings: Betty (Joe) Allen, Gordon (Lois) Van Ash, and Beverly (Lyall) Spargo; sister-in-law Marilyn Van Ash.  Preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Sophie Van Ash, brothers Cletus and Alfred, and former husband, Robert E. Griffith.  Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated by the family at The Church of St. Mary, Larchwood, Iowa, with burial at Larchwood Cemetery.

                We can all hear Lenny saying, “if ya ain’t Dutch, ya ain’t much!” 

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  1. Jeffrey Allen on November 20, 2019 said:

    Aunt Lenny, I will always fondly remember my summer vacations in Canton when I was a kid and the great fun we had. Rest in Peace.

    Condolences to all my cousins. Your wonderful Mom is in a better place. God bless her.

  2. Ila Torkelson on November 20, 2019 said:

    To all of Lennies family. Sending hugs and Prayers for you all. I know it is so hard to lose a parent no matter what their age. Just want you to know I am thinking of you all. I have lots of good memories with both of your parents from years ago. She was truly a wonderful lady.

  3. Mary Van Ash-Zishka on November 20, 2019 said:

    I am so sorry to have received the news of Aunt Lenny’s passing.
    She was always a very special woman to me—such a welcoming person.
    Keep your memory of her in your hearts so she is always with you. -Peace-

  4. Marilyn VanAsh on November 21, 2019 said:

    She responded to the Angels call. She is at peace now

  5. Gail (Everhart) Bauer on November 21, 2019 said:

    Growing up as a neighbor to the Griffiths was wonderful! I, along with my sisters Carol and Lori, have such fond memories of spending a lot of time with the family. And at the center of the family was their mom Lenny.
    She may have been a small built lady but her presence was huge! Love for her kids was always in the fore front. I was saddened to read of her passing but felt very grateful and blessed to have known such a warm, loving good person! God Bless her memory. And God Bless the Griffith “kids”.

  6. Rhonda Triezenberg on November 22, 2019 said:

    Thank you for sharing, April. What a lady she must have been! Love this classy pic and the pics I say of her in the nursing home – her nails always looked beautiful. May God guard your heart but may you always remember how much she meant to you. Blessings to you and yours as you remember and grieve.
    Rhonda Triezenberg.

  7. Judy (Creswell) Lee on November 24, 2019 said:

    My heart goes out to all the family of our dear Lenny. She was my boss and support and friend for many years at the State Department of South Dakota. I always think of her laughter and warmth when I think of her. She was an outstanding woman and human being to so many. Namaste and love to all in her family.

  8. Tom Van Ash on November 25, 2019 said:

    Condolences to my cousins and their families. Aunt Lenny will always be thought of with such fond memories. I know these past few years have been difficult for Lenny, but even recently when my mom and I would come to visit she knew we were there and would say my name. She always looked so nice. I believe Ginger did such a remarkable job making sure to take care of her mom’s daily needs. I’m sure my dad is taking good care of his sister now.

  9. Jill Palmer on November 26, 2019 said:

    I remember such good times at the Griffiths’ house in Canton. Lenny always made us feel so welcome. She was always dressed perfectly, even her last years great care was taken as that’s how she wanted it. Hugs to my cousins, Lyall is showing her around!

  10. Nina Edmunds Brown on July 20, 2020 said:

    I was so sorry to hear of Lenny’s passing. I remember her well car pooling with my mom & working at Otis. I used to run into her at the Sioux Falls VFW & always enjoyed talking with her. She was welcoming to me whenever I was at the Griffith house in Canton. A lovely lady who will be deeply missed by many.

    1. JOHN GRIFFITH on November 19, 2021 said:


  11. Cam Lind on July 21, 2020 said:

    So sorry for your loss, may she rest in peace. Best wishes to all.

  12. John Heynen on July 27, 2020 said:

    My condolences to her family and near ones. From what I read, she was a warm person that will be greatly missed. Unfortunately I have never met her. She was a 2nd cousin to me (Sophie Friessen was cousin to my mom, Marie Friessen).

  13. Alan & Linda Snyders on July 28, 2020 said:

    Our sympathy to the families of Lenny! May she Rest In Peace!

  14. Alan & Linda Snyders on July 28, 2020 said:

    Our sympathy to the family of Lenny. May she Rest In Peace!