GR family mourns, offers warning after young musician dies of COVID-19


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids family is mourning after a local musician died following a battle with COVID-19.

Christopher “Sterpher” Griffin contracted COVID-19 in the last few weeks. His family says he was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 5 for shortness of breath. Days later, his case escalated and he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

“For a healthy young man like Chris, always on the go, we never had to worry about him and then all of a sudden, this hit him,” Griffin’s aunt Tammy McFall said.

McFall says Griffin was confident that he would make a full recovery and even talked to her about making it to his aunt’s upcoming wedding.

“The last thing that he texted me was that he was scared, and I text him and told him, ‘I feel your pain because I’ve had COVID myself and got over it,’” his aunt Kimberly Ewing said. “I told him, ‘I love you. You’re going to pull through.’”

Early Wednesday morning, Griffin took his last breaths. He was 29 years old. His family says he was not vaccinated.

“He was just over my house a few weeks ago, trying to get my two sons right here to go to the studio with him,” a tearful Tonya Ewing said. “I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I physically talked to my cousin and it’s hurting.”

An undated courtesy photo of Christopher Griffin, who went by the stage name Sterpher.

His family says what they’ll miss most about him is his personality and positive spirit.

“He was fun, loving, positive vibes. Even if he was going through tough times, you wouldn’t know. He would crack a joke at the toughest times, just having us laughing when we should be crying,” Griffin’s cousin Brittany Williams said. “We need more people like him in the world and for him to be taken and he was only 29, we are scarred.”

Griffin’s family says they’re now gripping to memories and the music he leaves behind.

“The guy just had immense talent. You couldn’t beat his sound, his voice control. He just had it all. He was the total package,” said Ken Rookus, who was a friend and music manager of Griffin.

Rookus, along with Griffin’s best friend John Dooley, say they were working with the 29-year-old on an album before he died. His family says it was scheduled to come out on Aug. 28. They’re still planning to release it.

“It’s not just the artist, he’s a man and he’s going to be missed. His passion, his energy, his laugh — it just lights up a room. You can’t replace that,” Rookus said. “He had a goal. He had a mission and it doesn’t stop just because he isn’t here to witness it.”

Griffin’s family says after losing a loved one, they want to remind others to take COVID-19 seriously.

“Wear your mask. COVID is no joke,” Kimberly Ewing. “If you haven’t experienced it among your family or friends, it’s serious. If you need to be vaccinated, if you’re not vaccinated, please get vaccinated.”

Griffin’s family is still working to arrange his funeral. They are asking for donations via GoFundMe to help pay for the service.

Rookus says there will be updates via social media about Griffin’s posthumous album release.

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