Buck Griswold: A life that was 'all about giving'

The late Buck Griswold with his wife, Lila.
The late Buck Griswold with his wife, Lila.

During the 41 years he lived in town, there wasn’t much that did not benefit from the touch of Buck Griswold. Although Edward Bulkeley Griswold died Feb. 14, at the age of 80, that touch will continue to be felt as his legacy lives on long after his death.
Griswold died Friday at Yale New Haven Hospital due to complications from congestive heart failure. Friends may call on Friday, Feb. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Hoyt Funeral Home, 199 Main Street in New Canaan. A celebration of his life will take place Saturday, March 30, at Wilton Congregational Church, with a reception to follow at Waveny House in New Canaan. More details will be provided at a later date.
His daughter, Lianne Griswold Acosta-Rua, said the phrase “The Buck Stops Here,” truly applied to her father, whose civic leadership ranged from sports to public service, Wilton nonprofits, and affordable housing for senior citizens.
“Buck was one of Wilton’s great citizens,” former First Selectman Bill Brennan told The Bulletin. “Having worked with Buck for years on various community projects, I remember how he was so very dedicated to every task he took on.
“He was an inspirational fundraiser, whose personal efforts over many years resulted in the funding success that eventually produced the Wilton Commons affordable senior housing complex. Buck was always the first to offer assistance when there was a controversial issue. His investment/financial experience, executive stature and clear thinking on complex matters impressed every audience and was very influential. I owe him a lot for his counsel and support while I was in office.
“He was a great friend who will be missed, but will never be forgotten,” Brennan said.
Another friend who remembered Griswold was Kevin Craw, who said, “Buck was the ‘senior partner’ on just about every good thing I’ve been involved with in this town over the last 35 years. …I don’t know how many meetings we had over the years, but if it was a good cause, and Wilton was in some way involved, Buck pretty much had a hand in it.
“Nine times out of 10, if not a perfect 10 times, he was the lead horse on the fund-raising team, too. Never seen anybody like him. He could ‘make the ask’ like nobody I’ve ever known, and just like his beloved venture capital deals, he always had his own ‘skin in the game,’ which made it really hard to say no. He always said, ‘People don’t give to causes, they give to people. So make the cause your own, and the ask is easy!’”
Retired teacher Ann McDonald was an early friend who met Griswold in the 1980s, shortly after he, his wife Lila, and their children Lianne, Roger and Andy moved to Wilton. “He was introduced to the lacrosse board and immediately made an impression with his distinctive speaking voice and his charming personality,” she recalled. “Soon we realized that the board as well as the athletes and townspeople in Wilton were being graced with the talents of a dynamic personality who would have a long and lasting impact on our town.
“Buck was determined to put lights on the [high school] stadium field … implemented ideas for uniforms and activities for the players and, most of all, Buck could be heard cheering loudly at both lacrosse and football games.”
Griswold was president — and is a Hall of Fame member — of the Wilton Lacrosse Association and was president of the Wilton Sports Council.
His interest in sports also extended to leading the fund raising for the Wilton Family Recreation Complex — a planned ice rink and teen center — that voters ultimately did not approve.
McDonald also served on the YMCA board when he “orchestrated a team of us (not too willingly) to knock on doors for huge donations for renovating and enlarging the Y,” she said. Griswold spearheaded the 1983 and 2000 major capital campaigns.
Griswold also lent his financial skills to the Wilton Garden Club, of which Lila is a longtime member. Club member Lisa Caswell worked with him on improving the club’s endowment fund.
“Buck was generous with his time and always willing to share his expertise, explain the reasoning behind his recommendations, and answer questions raised by the committee members,” she said.
Most recently, Griswold was a board member of the Wilton Historical Society and president from 2015 to 2018, assisting in helping to revitalize that organization. Co-director Kim Mellin said his death was “such a loss for us here.”
“As a trustee and as board president, his focus on financials and fund raising was invaluable and inspired all of us,” she said. “He really was great to work with and his will be big shoes to fill here and throughout town.”
In 2010, Griswold received a national Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which recognizes “American citizens who exemplify a life dedicated to community service.”
Griswold’s ethnic heritage is English, German and Swedish, and at the time he told The Bulletin the awards ceremony at Ellis Island stirred powerful images. “As I walked up the marble stairs, I pictured the tens of millions of immigrants who also climbed these steps, seeking a better life,” he said. “You could close your eyes and feel what they felt as they left their boat slips. This was their gateway.” He said his own American journey had been “a huge blessing, and I feel I have to give back.” His long list of community service efforts began with Junior Achievement in his hometown of Hartford. “I learned then that life is all about giving,” he said.
Here, Griswold served on the Wilton Board of Finance, for many years spearheaded fund raising for Wilton Commons affordable senior housing, and with Lila was a supporter of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County. In 1991, he received a Distinguished Citizen award.
Griswold was born in Hartford on July 4, 1938. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Maryland in 1961 and an MBA in 1966 from the University of Connecticut.
He held a number of financial positions throughout his career including as senior vice president of GE’s investment organization in Stamford from 1976 to 1984. He ran a venture capital fund at Marketing Corporation of America in Westport from 1984 to 1997 and then started and was managing partner of his own private equity firm, L&L Capital. This merged to become Cetripetal Partners, where he served from 1997 to 2019. He was also on the board of the New York Mercantile Exchange (1996-2000) and the New London Mutual Life Insurance Company for the past 20 years.
“He was a family man at heart who was a proud father and grandfather, drawing great pleasure from watching all the children’s sporting activities with his booming voice up in the stands,” his family recalled. “Buck was a caring man who had an amazing gift of connecting with people. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, he wanted to know about you. His big smile, great storytelling and presence will be sorely missed by his family, friends and community.”
In addition to his wife and children, Griswold is survived by his daughter-in-law Shelly Griswold, son-in-law Gaston Acosta-Rua, and six grandchildren: Maddie, Teddy and Charlie Griswold, and Daria, Alex, and Andrew Acosta-Rua.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Wilton YMCA, Wilton Library, Wilton Historical Society, or Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County.