In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Hazel Dean Griffin, 96

Hazel Dean Griffin, 1923-2020

Hazel Dean Griffin, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among East Asian Affinity Peoples in Japan, died Oct. 19, 2020. She was 96.

Griffin was born on Dec. 17, 1923, in Comanche, Texas, to the late Lee and Ruth Lester. She moved with her family to Austin, Texas, where she graduated from Austin High School in 1941. She received a diploma from Durham Business College, Austin, in 1942 and received the Associate of Arts in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1953.

Griffin worked as a secretary at Elgin-Butler Brick Co., secretary to the commander of Camp Swift Military Base, Texas, during World War II, attendance secretary at Weatherford High School and clerk at Camp Doublecreek, Round Rock, Texas.

She married Joe Ray Griffin, who was preparing to be a pastor, on March 17, 1945. Together, she and Joe served in churches throughout Texas: Bee Cave Baptist in Austin, Elmont Baptist in Van Alstyne, Fairview Baptist in Sherman, First Baptist in Abernathy and North Side Baptist in Weatherford.

In 1981, the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) employed them to serve the English-language Kanto Plains Baptist Church in Tokyo, Japan. They served there six years before retiring in 1988 and returning to Texas.

According to her family, Griffin has a heart for women and became a leader in the women’s ministry of every church where Joe was pastor. She taught women’s Sunday School classes and Bible studies, led in the Woman’s Missionary Union and Girl’s Auxiliary (now Girls in Action and Acteens) and taught English to Japanese moms. Griffin also had a ministry of hospitality, they said. She opened her home to countless missionaries, evangelists, church members and staff, and anyone in need.

Hazel Dean is survived by her children, Les Griffin (Betty), Joe Griffin Jr. (Susan) and Janis Reeder (Philip); four grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Hazel Dean was preceded in death by her husband of 73 years, Dr. Joe R Griffin.

A memorial service was held Oct. 29, 2020, at First Baptist Church Round Rock.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Lottie Moon Offering for international missions through First Baptist Church Round Rock. Designate “Memorial gift for Hazel Dean Griffin” and mail to First Baptist Church Round Rock, 306 Round Rock Ave., Round Rock TX 78664 (512-255-3454) or give online at

Read an obituary here.