Family lost in fire 'impacted many people's lives'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jan 30, 2018 at 4:45 PM

Some people spend their lives helping others and leaving a positive mark on the world. 

According to the family, friends and neighbors, the Griggs were people of that sort.

Rebecca and Bob Griggs Jr., along with their adult disabled son, James, perished in a Norwalk house fire early Friday morning.

It was the first multiple-fatality fire the community has seen for at least as long as Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson can remember. 

The Griggs were known for their caring nature, which led them to serve as a loving foster family, in addition to raising their own four children, including three who survive them — Rob (Cali) Griggs, of Sandusky, Tricia (Scott) Costanzo, of Norwalk, and Dan (Lucia) Griggs, of Norwalk.  

The community has been asked to support the children as they prepare funeral arrangements, estimated to be $30,000. A GoFundMe account under the name “The Griggs Family” has been set up. As of Monday evening, $3,365 had been raised.

The non-profit organization Norwalk Eagle Riders also stepped up with a pancake breakfast benefit from 8 to noon Feb. 4 at the Norwalk Eagles Club. The organization is donating all proceeds and donations to the funeral expenses.

Costanzo said she is “unable to find the words to describe” what she and her brothers are going through with the loss of their parents and bother. 

“My parents are great people,” she said in a Facebook post.

“They have impacted many people’s lives through being foster parents. The lives they impacted most were my brothers and mine. They showed us that marriage is worth it — it’s hard but if you put the time and work into them, that is the best gift to give to your kids. They taught us that everyone deserves a chance and then another one because people are flawed and make mistakes and that is OK. No one is perfect but we should try and be the best person we can every day.

“They showed us that family is not blood — to love the people in your life like they are family. Everyone has worth and can teach you something if you take five minutes to talk and listen to what people say.”

Costanzo said the memories of her parents and brother make her proud to call them family.

“Lord knows Dad would teach you everything he ever knew if you would sit long enough to hear his stories,” she said.

James Griggs, 27, worked at Christie Lane Industries. According to his obituary, he loved 80’s music, puzzles, trains and going for car rides.

“James was the missing puzzle piece in our lives because James showed us what unconditional love is. It didn't matter how mad we got at each other as a family, no one could ever stay mad long because James’ smile and love brought everyone back together. If you had a question about a train or traffic light, ask James and sit down because that is an all-day conversation.”

Neighbor Jason Duncan agreed with Costanzo description of her brother.

“They were very welcoming. I know that. And they were always down to do something fun,” Duncan said. “I liked his (James’) type of music. He liked Backstreet Boys and stuff and he really liked trains. (Robert and Rebecca) felt like grandparents to me, so that’s going to be kind of hard to cope with.”

Bob Griggs, 65, was a retired bricklayer for Local 46. According to his obituary, he was a Cleveland Browns fan for life and loved Cleveland sports; and especially enjoyed their annual grandkids weekend.

His wife, 57, worked at Gaymont Nursing Center. According to her obituary, she, too, especially enjoyed their annual grandkids weekend. She also was an avid collector of lighthouses and enjoyed baking and taking care of people. 

“My mom was lucky enough to find a job she loved after stopping foster care,” Costanzo said about Rebecca. “She also found a great business that held the same values she instilled in us as kids. She loved being a mom and grandma, but she was proud to work as a STNA at Gaymont. She loved every resident she came in to contact with like they are her mom, dad or grandparent. I watched her mourn residents and also cheer them on when they met goals — a lot like she did when we were kids.”

Costanzo said her mother spent “her whole life” helping others any way she could “all the way down to her last few minutes.”

“She showed us what it means to love your child so much you would risk your own life for them,” she said.

“I could never thank my parents enough for the lessons and love they didn't teach us but showed us through living those lessons every day,” Costanzo said. “I wish I would have told them thanks for all that before Friday. Everyone thinks there is time to say what they need to say ‘till there is no time left.”

Friends, neighbors and coworkers took to social media and the GoFundMe page to share their thoughts and memories of the family. 

“I worked with Bob at Sam's Club. He was the sweetest guy ever. (This is) so sad,” Tamara Ryan said.

“My heart is just breaking, and words cannot convey my thoughts and prayers,” ‎Gayle Maschari-Mohr‎ said in a Facebook post on Robert’s profile page. “My love to your beautiful children and grandchildren you always bragged about. ... Rest in peace, my dear friends.”

Costanzo said she is grateful to everyone who played apart in attempting to save her family’s life, and recognized the sacrifice they too made.

“I want to thank the person who made the 911 call, the off-duty firefighter, all the on-duty firefighters and police officers who were at the house fire,” she said in her Facbook post.

“I know without a doubt you all did everything you could and even though I had the worst day of my life, their day was also a bad one. You all treated my family with respect and loving care, and for that, I cannot thank you enough.”

Friends my call from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Evans Funeral Home, 314 E. Main St. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter Lutheran Church, 243 Benedict Ave. Burial will follow in Woodlawn Cemetery.

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