Rick Griffiths just returned from a vacation in Saskatchewan where he visited many old friends. “There wasn’t a place I visited where I wasn’t given a meal and offered a bed to sleep in,” he says.
Griffiths is a self-proclaimed “people-person”, a man who cultivates and maintains long-term relationships.
As he talks about his friends and family in the Yukon, he makes use of what seems to be an endless supply of anecdotes. Griffiths tells these stories with a bemused smile.
It just so happens that he is also a great tinsmith.
Griffiths brought his personality and his proficiency in metalwork to the Yukon in 1967 and found himself to be right at home. “I liked the people up here, he says. “They are comfortable being themselves.”
This prompted Griffiths and his wife, Diana, to put down roots in the Yukon and within two years he owned and operated his own business, Griffiths Heating & Sheet Metal.
While some perceive owning a business to be a chance to accumulate wealth and personal power, Griffiths took a humbler approach to his entrepreneurial spirit.
“Owning my company has allowed me to be a servant of the people. I like it because I can do a good job and make people happy,” he says, displaying not only his love of people, but also a healthy dose of perfectionism.
He believes that metal workers, himself included, need to be held to a higher standard. “We need to have some teeth in the sheet-metal code.
“We need someone to check our work and make us fix it if its done wrong.” Griffiths is currently lobbying to see that this is done.
He is obviously a man who feels comfortable taking matters into his own hands and this part of his character extends beyond his attitude toward metalwork.
Upon arriving in the Yukon, Griffiths became involved in the local hockey scene. As a volunteer coach and executive, Griffiths began to think that sports in the Yukon could be organized better.
“A bunch of us were upset with how the government was running sports, so we got together.” The result was the Yukon Sports Federation. “I was the first president,” says Griffiths, “because I was the lippy one.”
“Lippy” doesn’t seem like quite the right word to describe Griffiths. He speaks with the quiet authority of a man who expects a lot from himself and others.
But it’s an authority that is balanced with a good deal of compassion for those around him. He can’t repress a smile when he speaks about the kids he used to coach.
“Once a week, I’ll walk down the street and run into a kid who knows me. It’s marvelous,” he says.
For Griffiths, getting kids involved in sports was never just about playing, it was about teaching them life skills as well. “I helped to teach them the value of organization and I helped mould them to survive in the world.”
Rick and Diana Griffiths were recognized for their contributions by being inducted into the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame, in 1993, but at the mention of this, Rick Griffiths shrugs his shoulders … He’s just a man who likes to help people out.