You’ll enjoy Griff’s story but I’m more curious about the famous people with whom you’ve dined.  … From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today:

Sixty years ago this week, Seattle resident Merle Griff, now 80, says he shared Passover Seder dinner with Albert Einstein at Princeton University. Griff, still spry with a sharp memory, remembers it every time he shakes a new person’s hand.

“Now you’ve shaken the hand that shook the hand of Albert Einstein,” he says. “Not many people can say that anymore.”

Passover, the traditional eight-day celebration of Jewish freedom and renewal, starts at sundown today.

Griff’s version of “my dinner with Einstein” goes like this:

“I was in a holding place to go to midshipman’s school to become an officer in the Navy, and there was a notice on the bulletin board in our dorm inviting Jewish boys to sign up to attend a Seder dinner. I signed up, and we congregated in front of one of the dorms. There were about 30 of us. A lot of us were in our swabbie uniforms, and there were a couple of petty officers and a couple of striped officers.”

As they headed toward an on-campus dining hall, one of the guys cried out, “I don’t believe it!” Griff recalls. “And there was this little man with the big head and bushy hair, and it was him. He greeted us as a group and stood in front of the hall taking questions.

“People were asking him about the theory of relativity and math. … So I inched my way up to the front and asked him, ‘Professor, do you have any trouble doing your income tax?’

“He looked at me with that big oversized head — and it was oversized, just the way it always looks in the photographs — and he smiled and said, ‘It’s too complicated.’ “

There’s more to Griff’s life that you’ll enjoy reading, and a few more anecdotes about Einstein:

“He’s not shy about approaching people he finds interesting. And he doesn’t enjoy small talk. He gets to the heart of the matters in conversation,” says Dee Wells, who serves on the board of the Academy of Music Northwest with Griff. She’s never known him to make things up.

Neither has Sanford Petersky, who has known him since they graduated Garfield High School together in 1943.

“He’s told me about that (Einstein meeting),” Petersky says. “I believe it happened.”

Griff, who is now legally blind, has told it at the Kline Galland home for old folks where he volunteers as well. It is, in fact, one of his favorite stories. And he has many others.

A few involve other famous people. There was the time he was on liberty leave at the Stage Door Canteen in New York City and felt a tap on his shoulder.

“This woman said, ‘Would you like a Coke, sailor?’ ” he says. “It was Bette Davis.

“I said, ‘Yes!’ “

Another tale involves a long-ago canceled date with a long-legged woman he declines to publicly identify “because she’s still alive.” Suffice it to say, it would have put him in a league with Fred Astaire.

Griff, who lives alone with a sweeping view of Puget Sound from his downtown condominium, spent his working years in the insurance business. Born in Seattle — “I’ve been told Providence Hospital has never been the same” — he married three times and has four surviving children and eight grandchildren.

His Einstein tale, which can’t be independently verified, is at least plausible.

Einstein first went to Princeton in 1921 to deliver four lectures on the theory of relativity and to receive an honorary doctorate. In 1933, he returned to join the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study. He lived in Princeton, N.J., for 22 years until his death in 1955.

Although the institute couldn’t verify the specifics of the dinner, archivists there did verify that Einstein was in town in Princeton during Passover in 1945.

“It’s not like an Elvis sighting,” says Eileen Beirne of the Institute. “He was here.”

New anecdotes about Einstein are cropping up, especially now, she says. This year marks the centennial of Einstein’s so-called “Year of Miracles.”

In 1905, Einstein published the seminal work on the dual nature of light — that it had properties of both particles and waves — that transformed 20th-century scientific thought and produced the famous equation E=mc{+2}. Two other pivotal papers followed, including one on special relativity, establishing Einstein as a physics genius.

To Griff, on that day, however, he was a fellow Jew sharing a traditional religious ceremony.

“We had a communal Seder. We all participated,” he says. “And Einstein, he read along with the book — the Haggada. He wasn’t anyone special.”

After dinner, Einstein reached under his table and pulled out his violin, says Griff. “He was really pleased to have a captive audience, and he played for us. He was good. He played several pieces and said he did his best thinking and relaxing playing music.”

Then everyone got up, says Griff. “And as we left, he shook each of our hands.”

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