LaVerne H. Griffin

PORTAGE --  LaVerne Griffin, age 91, of Portage, passed away on Friday, December 20, 2019 at Divine Savior Hospital in Portage.

LaVerne “Griff” Griffin had 3 passions:  Family, Flying and Curling. 

He graduated Portage High School and earned a degree in aerospace engineering from Penn State in 1963. He was born on December 15, 1928 in Milwaukee, the son of Wilmer “Red” and Marion (Buzzell) Griffin.  He grew up in Wyocena.  After graduating from Portage High School in 1946 he entered the military.  Upon receiving his Air Force commission, he was assigned to the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron and became one of the premier aerial reconnaissance operatives in the U.S. Air Force, flying hundreds of missions over North Korea, Siberia, Vietnam and parts of Europe.  In 1954, he led the first top secret military reconnaissance over-flights of the Soviet Union, for which he earned three United States Air Force Distinguished Flying Crosses.  (The mission was declassified in 2000)
After 28 years, he retired in 1974 as Wing Commander of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing stationed in the United Kingdom.   He moved back to Portage and became active in local aviation.  He was a member of the Aero Club at Gilbert Field at Rio, running its fly-in breakfast every June.
He excelled in acrobatics, winning the 1993 National Stearman Aerobatic championship.  Flying more than 6,000 hours in the Air Force and 3,000 hours as a civilian, in 2010 the FAA awarded him the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.  LaVerne was tagged “The Wyocena Kid” for a cover story of a flying magazine following his 2012 induction into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame.  He was best known for being a teacher, mentor and friend to many in aviation.
He purchased a Pitts S2A in September and was looking forward to teaching his son acrobatics.
He laughingly referred to himself as the “oldest active curler” in Wisconsin, having taken up the sport 40 years ago.  He curled in 2 leagues and attended many bonspiels, including a very memorable one in Scotland.
He made friends easily and, more importantly, kept in touch with them through phone and emails.  His high school class meets monthly for lunch.
He is survived by his wife, Jan; his children, Martha Wiley, John “Jack” (Janet) Griffin, Janet Griffin (Scott Haselton) and Mary Griffin (Ray Dietman); his brothers, Duane (Lotus) and Bob (Connie); his sisters, Nona and Ruthie; six grandchildren, Ed  and Jeff Wiley, Cam and Josie Griffin, Nancy Dowd and John Dietman, five great-grandchildren, two-great-great grandchildren as well as numerous nieces and nephews, other relatives and many friends.  LaVerne was preceded in death by his his first wife, Cozette and his daughter, Nancy. 

Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 28, 2019 at the Pflanz Mantey Mendrala Funeral Home in Portage (, with Fr. Gary Krahenbuhl presiding.  Burial will follow in Otsego Cemetery with Military Honors by the Portage Area Veterans Honor Guard.  Visitation will be held on Friday, December 27, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., and on Saturday, December 28, 2019 from 1:00 until 2:00 p.m. at the funeral home. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Portage Curling Club or Portage American Legion Post #47.   




For information please call 608 742-2126 (Portage, WI) or 608 635-2763 (Poynette, WI)