Leona Riggs Dies in NM; Former Resident was 97

Category: Obituaries
Created on Friday, 02 April 2021 15:40
Hits: 1264

Leona (Eastham) Riggs

On Friday, March 26, 2021, Leona Riggs, loving wife and mother of three grown children, passed away at the age of 97, in Deming, New Mexico.

She was born Nov. 27, 1923, in Kenova, West Virginia, to Eli and Eva (Clarkson) Eastham, the 11th child in a family of 12.  On April 7, 1942, she married Lindsey Perry Riggs, her high school sweetheart, before he left for duty overseas in World War II.

After graduating from high school in 1943, while Lindsey was overseas, Leona was a “Rosie the Riveter” in Toledo, Ohio. After Lindsey returned at the end of the war, they had three children, and raised their family between West Virginia and California, and then finally in Sitka, Alaska.

In California, Leona worked for the Department of Navy as a keypunch operator, and in Alaska she worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a dorm matron at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. She later ran a home day care.   

In the early 1980s, she and Lindsey retired to Deming, where they enjoyed another 30 years together.  After Lindsey died, Leona lived with her daughter Sandy and son-in-law Dave in Deming. Her son Rick and his wife Christina lived nearby.

Leona was a strong Christian woman who never shied from sharing her faith in Christ with family and friends, as well as strangers. She loved to sing hymns in the car and in her living room. At the time of her death, she was a member of the Bethel Baptist Church in Deming.

Leona was an outgoing, active woman. She worked hard on her family’s farm from the time she was a young girl, was proud of her country roots, and didn’t put on airs about who she was.  She was a star pitcher on her high school softball team as a teen, which coincidently is what she was doing when Lindsey first saw her from the classroom window and exclaimed to his friend, “I’m going to marry those legs some day.”

She enjoyed camping with her family when they lived in California, and later did arts and crafts with a group of friends in Sitka. She liked to be busy, canning countless jars of tomatoes, green beans, and peaches in the summer, and crocheting incredibly beautiful afghans and other items during the winter months ... blessing many family members and friends over the years.

Leona loved, cherished, and was extremely proud of each of her grandchildren and the generations of grandchildren that followed. She was generous to those she saw with a need, as well as with friends and family. And she loved New Mexico.  In her later years she became an avid walker, which probably contributed to her longevity.  

Leona was preceded in death by her husband, Lindsey, both her parents, and all her siblings, and by her son Phil and son-in-law, Dave.

She is survived by her daughter, Sandra Adams Williams of Deming, son and daughter-in-law Rick and Chris Riggs of Deming, and daughter-in-law Sue Riggs, of Sitka.  She also is survived by eight grandchildren, Debbie (Loren) Thompson, Gus (Rachel) Adams, Parke Adams, Rich (Nicole) Riggs, Julie (Kevin) Wakley, Daphne (Jay) Tidwell, Amanda (Jim) Airo, and Ricky (Dawn) Riggs, as well as 17 great-grandchildren, and 12  great-great-grandchildren, as well as numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews in several generations, and her beloved and faithful Chihuahua dog Molly.

In life on this earth, Lindsey and Leona lived a humble life together, and loved one another unconditionally, with their love for one another only exceeded by their love for God, their family said. “While they always had very modest worldly resources, this never concerned them, as they were truly rich in Christ, and as such, their happiness knew no bounds. Their true legacy is the Christian way they lived their daily life, even when no one else was watching.”

Due to pandemic concerns, no services will be held at this time. Her church celebrated her by singing one of her favorites, “I’ll Fly Away, Sweet Jesus,” this past Sunday in her honor.  The family plans to have a gathering in Sitka at some time to spread her ashes together with Lindsey’s.