November 11, 2020

Getting to know Hugh by making a mask for him

Hugh wearing a TOM BIHN mask.

One of the people we’ve gotten to know through our mask making effort is Hugh, a World War II veteran. Hugh emailed and asked us if we could make a mask that would work with his hearing aids; Tom made Hugh the mask he’s wearing in this photo and, over the course of several phone calls and emails, they got to know each over through their shared interests in history and classic movies.

Hugh, a World War II veteran, wearing a mask that Tom made just for him.

Note: we're continuing to refine the design of a new mask accessory that'd allow anyone to wear any of our masks behind the head instead of around the ears. Stay tuned....

Hugh’s life, adventures, his military service, and the fact that we wouldn’t have gotten to know him if it wasn’t for mask-making all serve as inspirations to us, and we wanted to share that with you: Tom asked Hugh if we could share his biography with all of you, and Hugh said sure.

Thank you, Hugh, for your service to our country! And thank you sharing your feedback on Tom’s new mask design!

Biography: Hugh Alan Wyn Griffith

I was born in England in 1925. In 1940, when it was thought that the Germans would invade the UK next, I was evacuated at the age of 15 to the United States of America under a government plan to safeguard the next generation. I first lived with a great uncle and his family in Rochester, New York; then, on a farm in the Finger Lakes region, where I graduated from high school. I spent year at Hobart College, in Geneva, New York as a chemistry major.

At that point, I was 18 and was drafted into the United States Army in August 1943. I was assigned as a Signals Technician to the newly formed 63rd Infantry Division, 563 Signals Company at Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi. In 1944, I became a U.S. citizen. 

We shipped over to the South of France in the Winter 1944-45 as part of Operation Dragoon. We went up the Rhone Valley through Alsace and then into Germany where we liberated Heidelberg; our infantry headed for Austria caring for those in at least one concentration camp before being pulled back. I was transferred into military government after the war ended.

My brother had been killed in the British Army while flying over Germany with the Royal Air Force as a radar observer. I did not want to leave my parents alone, so I took my discharge in England and went to Oxford University under the G.I. bill. At Oxford, I continued my chemistry studies but graduated with a degree in Philosophy Politics and Economics (and a couple of award winning documentary films under my belt.)

I married a French woman I’d met in Oxford. While getting to know each other, we learned we shared one of those strange coincidences of life -- in August of 1944, as she was hiding from the Germans, she watched the colored dots of U.S. troops  parachutes (including, possibly, my division's) as we landed in the South of France! She and I had two fine boys but later divorced.

After I graduated from Oxford, I first worked in the technical side of the textile industry based in England, and then as CEO of a startup company bridging the gap between research and the industry as users.

I returned to live in the USA when I retired. In 1994, I moved to Florida with a long time friend and we married in 1999 -- one day before my 75th Birthday since I did not want her to marry an old man ..... it seems to have worked!

- Hugh


Kevin H. - November 27, 2020

Wonderful all around! Thank Hugh for your service!

Michael - November 27, 2020

Thank you. This small story in a tiny corner of the internet makes the world a better place.

Chris Jacobs - November 27, 2020

So great to hear Hugh’s story! And thanks for working on a mask that can be worn by folks with hearing aids. I know a lot of people who would be getting Christmas masks from me if they were available!

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.