Elsie Griffith Tyler

12/16/1922 St. Petersburg, Florida

Life Is What You Make It

The Playlist

In the Mood

  • In the Mood Glenn Miller

    Just a war years song that played a lot

I never walked alone

Born in St. Petersburg Florida on December 16, 1922, I was the fourth of four children, and a surprise as my mother was 40 years old when I made my way into this world.

Mom, Mary Ellen Worley Griffith, had a great sense of humor and a practical approach to everything. She needed that at times as I was growing up. We were so very close.  Dad, Roblin Alexander Griffith was born on Roatan, an island off Belize.  It was British Honduras when he lived there during the early 1900s.  He came to the US on a fruiter (banana boat) to Tampa harbor in 1912. He already had family living in the Tampa-St. Pete area which helped him get acclimated to his new life in the US.

Growing up I was a little rebellious but not in a particularly bad way.  I just had good energy and my own way of looking at life. At the same time I so much enjoyed spending time with my older brother Wybert.

I also loved horses and rode every chance I could. It was not unusual when I was a teenager to quit high school, which i did.  I was 42 when I decided to get my GED, then earned my Licensed Practical Nurse certificate.  I guess you would say I was a late bloomer.

Daddy was a skilled carpenter and a hard worker.  He worked at a bakery as a carpenter, adding to the building as the bakery grew.  He also helped build the Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach during the 1920s.  That would weigh heavily in my life.

The Don Cesar was the place to be seen in its heyday in the 1920s.  The New York Yankees stayed there during spring training.  The hotel had a railroad spur built so that it's clientele could have direct rail access from New York and other northeastern cities.

When the owner died, the hotel fell in disrepair and the federal government took ownership and wrote off the $200,000 in back taxes it was due from the owner's estate.

The government converted the Don Cesar into a military facility for medical and social rehabilitation for soldiers returning from WW11.  I got a job there as a dental hygienist and cleaned the teeth of those boys who had seen the worst of it in Germany, Poland, England and the Philippines.  They couldn't sit still for long so it often took multiple visits to get their teeth clean.

It was there that I met Tim, a 1st Lieutenant. He was an ArmyAir Corp bombardier on B17s stationed in England.  He was shot down and was captured spending 10 months as a Prisoner of War at the German prison camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan Germany. He was a good looking man and we had only known each other for three days when he proposed to me, I said yes.

It was just 30 days later, September 1, 1945 that we married in the Don Cesar chapel.  My daddy was so furious that he would not attend our wedding and wouldn't give me away!  He later grew to love Tim and understood why I fell in love with Tim.

Our first son, Leon Jr was born in July 1946. Leon Tyler Sr. was Tim's legal name, but was given his nickname in the military for having walked away from being shot down and returning on the first two occasions. He would be shot down a third time when he was captured and interred in Germany.  It was his 26th, and due to be his last mission before returning state side.

Our second son Michael Wesley Tyler came along 2 years, 2 months and 2 days later.  We loved our boys!  When they were young, most people thought they were twins.

Our time together flew. We first lived in Florida with my parents for a little over two years as Tim worked at the St. Pete airport as a pilot.  But he missed the water.  Tim grew up on Hooper's Island in Dorchester County, Maryland.  His mom missed him.  Tim's dad had died when Tim was just a year old. His mom remarried a nice man but there was not a close relationship between Tim and his step dad.

So we moved to the Island and lived with Tim's mom for about 18 months while Tim built a work boat to start is business of a waterman on the Choptank River.  He crabbed in the summer months and tonged for oysters in the winter months.  It was hard physical work, but he loved the water.

I loved Tim and our boys and it didn't matter to me where we lived, as long as we were together.

We found a place to fix up and rent. It was an adventure.  I learned to fish for fun. I went hunting but wasn't very good, but it was time spent with Tim. We were involved in the Hoosier Memorial Church there on the Island. Tim taught the youth group at our Sunday School.  I was a choir director. I was a Cub Scout Den Mother while Tim was a Scout Master.

Our lives together were good, our time was blessed.  Yes we had our struggles and life trials, but we always found a way because we faced it together.

We moved to Cambridge Maryland in 1958. It was about 40 minutes from the Island. There were more opportunities in Cambridge for Tim.  He eventually became an agent with Nationwide Insurance.  We had some lean years but we were together and our love for one another and our faith held us together.

My role was to take care of the home and see the boys had clean clothes.  I managed the budget and was there for Tim as he built his insurance business.

1966 was a tough year as both our boys were in Southeast Asia. Mike was in the Army assigned to Viet Nam as a cannoneer. Leon Jr, was in the Air Force stationed in Thailand. We worried and prayed a lot for their safety.  Our prayers were answered when they both came home at the end of 1967.

The home we had built in Cambridge has access to the Bay.  Tim and the boys bulkheaded the back of the property. Tim kept our boat there.  Our family had many memorable weekends on the boat crabbing and fishing.

We were married for 49 years when I lost Tim to cancer. It is my faith that allowed me to survive that time and even today, it is that same faith that has kept my cup half full over all of my years.

I have had a blessed life, not without difficult circumstances, but in all of my adventures, trials, and life celebrations, I have never walked alone. My relationship with Jesus has strengthen and comforted me.

Elsie in photos

  • My really early years

  • Roblin and Mary Ellen Griffith my parents

  • Daddy was a carpenter building the Don Cesar

  • As a dental hygientist at the Don Cesar

  • Feeding the troops at the Don Cesar

  • Entertaining the boys at the Don Cesar

  • Our wedding day, September 1, 1945

  • Me and granddaughter Kate

  • Celebrating #90

  • Me and my great grandson Jake

  • This was taken shortly after Tim and I were married