Deanna Lenhart Griffith, a Findlay Ohio native, proudly served in the US Air Force from 2002 through 2006.
Born Deanna Lenhart in 1983 to Roger and Roz Lenhart she was the “baby” of the family, joining older siblings Jeff, Matt and Lori.
She attended Liberty Benton schools graduating from the high school in 2002. Deanna was a cheerleader and ran track for Liberty Benton in her freshman and sophomore years. Always described as having an “old soul” Deanna had many friends but always had her focus on what lay ahead not in school. The atmosphere and social issues common in high school “seemed silly to me.” Deanna began working at Archies Drive-In at the age of thirteen. By sixteen she was also working part-time at Cheddars and Applebee’s as a hostess. Deanna had a regular work-out regime all throughout school: “I worked out because it helped me keep focused in life.”
With graduation approaching Deanna was unsure of her future or what direction to in. “I didn’t want to go to college, I didn’t know what I wanted.” She decided to join the Air Force in her senior year, using the “delayed entry” program. “I wanted to face the mental and physical challenges of the military, to test myself.” Less than a month after graduation, on July 17, 2002, Deanna left for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, Texas. “Although I was somewhat prepared for the experience from watching military movies, The DI’s screaming and their scary hats had me questioning, “Oh s***, what have I done?” Much of basic training is a blurred memory for Deanna; “I remember being really tired, exhausted. It was so hot and sweaty. I would think, “How can I get out or wondering if the entire next four years were going to be like this?” Her working out during high school helped as she was in good physical shape.
Tech school was located at Ft. Mead in Maryland where she would attend DEF-INFO school to learn military photography and journalism with other students from every branch of the military. It was a bit nicer than Lackland as students were boarded in dorm rooms but the students “still had to drill, be in formation, and have daily inspections.”
Deanna’s class work included two weeks of learning how to process/develop black and white film before moving on to digital cameras. “We were taught how to use studios and lighting for portraits, how to shoot and process crime scenes and how to take pictures under combat situations. All facets of documenting using a camera.” At the end of six months Airman Lenhart graduated from tech school, had a brief two week visit back in Findlay, and then reported for duty at Buckley Air Force Base located in Aurora, Colorado. She was now a member of the 460th Space Communications Squadron which falls under the 460th Space Wing as part of the Air Force Space Command. It was when she stepped into her assigned dorm room, with separate bedrooms she realized, “It was finally going to be okay! I fell in love with Colorado and it’s beautiful nature immediately.”
Deanna’s daily routine included studio work taking promotion and retirement portraits, shooting base exercises and activities for the base newspaper, responding to crime scenes and assorted other assignments. ” I also did aerial photography out of Chinook helicopters during my time in service!”
“Now “Airman First Class”, Deanna was assigned to the Space Command Inspector General team, traveling with them to document inspections and exercises on other Space Command bases. “I was able to travel to Alaska, Florida, Wyoming and even Minot, North Dakota, where I was able to down in a missile silo! We traveled by car, commercial airlines and a couple of times onboard C-130’s!” At the end of an average two-week inspection Deanna was tasked with putting together a slideshow of inspection picture highlights synced with music. “I had fun! I would use Led Zepplin, U2 and other fun songs. I had complete say on choice of music!”
(Here is one of Deanna’s many published photographs wile at Space Command.)
Deanna spent all three years at Buckley AFB. Her work ethics, photography skills, and great people skills allowed her to promote to Senior Airman “below the zone.” “I had great experiences while stationed there. I photographed President George Bush’s visit, met Donald Rumsfeld, and on one flight sat next to the Air Force General on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We had a great talk. He treated me like an equal, was very cool.”
At the end of her contract Deanna chose to leave the Air Force. “I loved the experience. It was freedom, a way out of a small town. I met really cool people from all walks of life. But the military life was not the career I wanted.”
Deanna returned home to Ohio where she used her GI Bill to complete a one-year course in massage therapy. When she passed her state licensing exams, Deanna went to work at Journey Spa/Salon. She loved her clientele and the help she was able to provide them through massage. She would move later to Dave Clinger’s Wellness Center.
In 2010 Deanna met Wes Griffith through mutual friends at the YMCA. “We both liked working out. I found he was so easy to talk to. He was a Physical Therapist and a supervisor at FMC. We were married in a small ceremony surrounded by only immediate family.” They have two daughters, Olivia and Chloe. The family loves outdoors activities.
Deanna came from a family full of entrepreneurs and she followed their example. She had purchased her first rental property before meeting Wes and together they picked up three more properties. When Deanna saw a notice of the local ice cream drive through “Jolly Dipper” being up for sale, her years of experience at Archies and her desire to own her own business prompted Deanna to put an immediate offer in on it. The offer was accepted and on April 6th, 2019 we, Wes, me, and the girls, (with help from Mike Miller, Archies owner) having no clue how to run an ice cream place, “went for it!”
“We jumped in both feet. Wes and I are a very good team, and we are completely committed to be successful. We had amazing suppliers and a wonderful crew of nearly 20 employees!” It was a brutal first few months as the couple often put in 80-hour work weeks. “The first year was an amazing and profitable success and we loved all our return customers!”
Now in the off season, Deanna and Wes are spending their time working on their rental properties and “tons” of other outdoor projects on their property. Deanna continues her work out regiment and has added yoga and CrossFit. “I need self-focused “me” time.” Deanna loves her fur children, three German Shepherds named Nika, Koba, and Dago. She gets additional “animal therapy” from her flock of 30 chickens.
Next step for Deanna is completing her real estate licensing course and becoming a real estate agent.