- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Sylvia Griendling’s life is as textured as her husband Rich’s artwork.
She’s not used to talking about herself. Rich always does the interviews for their business.
“I’ve just stayed in the background and enjoyed that actually,” Griendling said. “I’m not a spotlight kind of person.”
Rich said he has always been aware that she put his career first.
“It’s nice to share some of the spotlight,” Rich said.
Griendling’s story begins on a tobacco and peanut farm in eastern North Carolina.
“I grew up with a lot of hard work out in the country,” Griendling said.
They were so poor she really didn’t see many opportunities so she didn’t look too far ahead. Her mother encouraged education and knew it was a way out of poverty. If Griendling had schoolwork her mom would take over her chores so she could study.
She was a happy child with loving parents and didn’t realize how poor she was until she was away from home, she said.
College was a social awakening because she had always been on the farm.
She went to Eastern Carolina University and met Rich.
“I was a library sciences student and he an art student,” Griendling said. “Somehow that seemed like a fairly good match.”
After they were married they lived in New Jersey for a few years but decided they wanted to live in a less populated area, which led them to Louisville. Rich got a job at Kentucky Educational Television in Louisville and she became a librarian at Bashford Manor Elementary School.
Then Rich became an artist in residence in Montana for a year. The hiking and people were great, but it was hard to figure out how to make a living there.
Bill Schmidt’s purchase of Rich’s Coca-Cola van proposal brought them to Elizabethtown, where they’ve lived for 33 years.
Griendling got plugged into the school system. She began at J.T. Alton Middle School, then Howevalley Elementary School and finally she started the library at New Highland Elementary School.
“I find, myself, more times that not, when an analogy is called for, I can usually think of a children’s book,” Griendling said. “It’s usually the first thing that pops in my mind because most of my time was in elementary libraries”
Her favorites include Maurice Sendak's “Where the Wild Things Are,” Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss
“You can’t beat Dr. Seuss,” Griendling said.
At 34, Griendling had her first of two sons. Having children late in life wasn’t really planned but it worked out well. She stepped away from teaching to help out with the art business at home, which also let her be home for her sons. She feels lucky to be able to have worked from home.
“I got to do life how I wanted to do it,” Griendling said.
Her oldest, Alex, is a freelance graphic designer in Minneapolis. Max is at Murray State University and is a writer. For his senior project he is writing a poetry book, and his dad and brother are helping with the illustrations.
She’s proud of her sons and keeps a close eye on them.
“You have to keep up with your kids. I don’t care how old they get,” Griendling said.
Now, at age 60, she’s developed a passion for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), an organization that promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children.
The idea was planted in her head when her sons were in grade school but the signs to get involved started appearing two years ago. She went to a meeting not realizing they were in the reorganization process and felt she had the skills to help.
She started volunteering as the CASA of the Heartland executive director. She started by organizing it like a business and has drawn support for the board from various parts of the community.
“Sylvia is a wonderful friend to so many people including me,” the Rev. Alice Nichols, CASA board chairwoman, said.
Nichols describes Griendling as the driving force behind CASA.
“Her absolute commitment to the children that CASA serves is unquestionable,” Nichols said.
For her role at CASA, organizing volunteers and gaining community support, Griendling feels it’s a combination of everything she’s ever done.
“When you think about how you got here it’s logical now,” Griendling said. “It’s a prime example of when you have a passion for something you can figure out how to get it done and draw people to it.”
That passion is something Rich appreciates about her, although he admits after 39 years of marriage he's a bit bias.
“I’ve never met a person who is more dedicated to whatever she undertakes — if it’s raising her two boys or the support she has given me in my career or at CASA,” Rich said.
Her story, from poverty on a tobacco farm to where she is now, proves she’s had to be determined, Rich said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or email@example.com.
Getting to know Sylvia Griendling:
CASA: To learn more about the Court Appointed Special Advocates go to www.casaheartland.org or call (270) 982-2272.