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Griffin Watkins Okie

Died: July 7, 2017

In his class book entry for the 50th Reunion, Grif Okie wrote boldly that “I lived life on my own terms and to my own satisfaction,” a judgment that rings true from his life history. During his four year’s naval service in Vietnam on the destroyer USS Walke, Grif realized that “we only go around one time” and you should “do what we want to do with your life.” In Grif’s case, he discovered the beauty in hardwood and determined to make from it the finest furniture possible.

After returning from Vietnam, Grif moved to the San Francisco Bay area. After a brief term in the business world, he began what he called “…a 40-plus year quest to build the most beautiful hardwood furniture – a goal springing from some cosmic connection of unknown origin. California in the seventies exuded ‘anything is possible,’ and I was along for the ride.”

He had originally intended to be a sculptor but decided “a well-crafted table was as beautiful as any sculpture.” Grif was the lucky person who could say truthfully, “I couldn’t wait to start each day.”

His furniture won praise and was purchased by politicians, rock singers, movie actors and Silicon Valley magnates; he discovered by chance that one of his favorite clients was famous: Andrew Grove, of Intel. As his woodworking business grew, so did the size of his workshops. Eventually, he and his wife Cyrie owned a ten-acre farm near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, where he built a beautiful workshop and he and Cyrie had two dogs and three horses.

Before he met Cyrie, Grif was married twice, had numerous romances and fathered a son, Tyler. In 2000, Grif married Cyrie Barnes, an acupuncturist he described as “wonderfully beautiful and intelligent.” Their blended family included Tyler and Cyrie’s two sons, Tucker and Charlie.

Cyrie described Grif as a “woodaholic,” who could get “completely lost” designing furniture: buffet tables, bookcases, bed stands and even an entire wood interior for a house in Sausalito. Cyrie said he fell in love with his creations and might even discourage customers from buying one, saying they would do better in Ikea. Cyrie quietly advised customers not to enthuse about a piece – “Oh, this is not for us” – to stir Grif’s competitive juices and encourage him to sell. Cyrie said the 150 loving friends at his memorial service accepted his ideocracies, regarding Grif as “amazing,” “crazy” and a “character.”

Mark West Creek, which flows 28 miles to the Pacific Ocean, abuts the Okie property and is fine steelhead habitat. Grif was active in protecting the creek’s environment, work that earned recognition from the Friends of the Mark West Waterhead.

Grif was a skier, horseback rider, loved travel and enjoyed driving his tractor over farm work itself. He found true love in life and fulfillment in work by pursuing perfection in hardwood. He was one of a kind.

Michael Crutcher