Mary Charles "Charlie" Griffin
August 31, 1923 ~ May 31, 2020
Resided in: Asheville, NC
Mary Charles Griffin passed away peacefully at her home on May 31, 2020 at the age of 96.
Known to her friends as Charlie, Mary Charles Griffin, daughter of Mary and Munsey Alexander of Wilkesboro, was born on August 31, 1923. She enrolled at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, now UNC, Greensboro but put her studies on hold during World War II to go to work at a G.I. flight training school. Her spirit of adventure was evident early on when she obtained her pilot’s license in her 20’s, then travelled up the Eastern seaboard with a friend teaching ballroom dancing as Arthur Murray dance instructors. She returned to UNCG and completed her degree in Recreation and Business Administration in 1952. While working as a Recreational Therapist in a psychiatric hospital, she met her future husband who was completing his residency at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston Salem. She married Dr. Robert Griffin and they moved to his native Asheville where he joined the family enterprise as a Psychiatrist at Appalachian Hall.
While raising three daughters, Charlie was engaged in politics, business and civic endeavors. She was an early proponent of equal rights for women and was appointed in the 1970’s by President Nixon to the Citizen’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women in Washington, D.C. She was a partner in The Studio, a boutique dress shop originally located on Wall Street in the early revitalization of downtown Asheville before opening as one of the first shops in Biltmore Village. She served on the Manpower Commission and on the Boards of a local bank, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and the Black Mountain College Museum.
After becoming empty nested, Charlie began to pursue her lifelong interest in art beginning with weekly private lessons before taking a studio at the Warehouse where she was among the first artists in the River Arts District. She was drawn to abstract expressionism, finding it best suited to depict the movement and spontaneity that was integral to her painting. The Chair of the art department at Western Carolina University convinced her to enroll in their graduate program and at age 77, Charlie earned her master’s degree in Studio Painting. She was fearless in her approach to a canvas with her grand scale paintings characterized by dramatic brush strokes, dynamic movement, explosive color, exuberant energy, and spontaneous freedom. When her diminishing eyesight prevented her from painting, she continued to hold open house at her Warehouse studio well into her 90’s. She cherished the relationships she developed over the years at her studio with artists and patrons and her later in life reinvention was inspirational to many. Her many friends transcended generations, race and politics and she graciously welcomed visitors to her home.
She is survived by daughters Suzie Bowman of Charlotte, Joan Griffin of Rutherfordton, and Molly Bachmann (Peter), of La Canada, California; grandson Robert Bachmann (Sarah Turchin) and great granddaughter, Noa Claire Bachmann of Brooklyn, New York; brother Bill Alexander (Betty) of Wilkesboro; brother Bob Alexander of Asheville; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by sister Elizabeth “Libby” Caudill.
Charlie will be remembered by the many lives that she touched by her warm and gracious spirit, charming sense of humor and the twinkle in her eye.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to Asheville Arts Council or Asheville Art Museum. A celebration of her life will be held in Asheville at a later date.