On Friday, March 26, 2021, Leona Riggs, loving wife and mother of 3 grown children, passed away at the age of 97.
Leona was born on November 27, 1923, in Kenova, WV, to Eli and Eva (Clarkson) Eastham, as the 11th child in a family of 12. On April 7, 1942, she married Lindsey Perry Riggs, her high school sweetheart, before he departed for duty overseas in World War II. She graduated from high school in 1943. After graduation, while Lindsey was overseas, Leona was a “Rosie the Riveter” in Toledo, Ohio. After Lindsey returned at the end of the war, they had 3 children, and raised their family between West Virginia and California, and then finally in Sitka, Alaska. In California, Leona worked for the Dept. 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, and later ran a home day care. In the early 1980’s, she and Lindsey retired to Deming, NM, where they enjoyed another 30 years together. After Lindsey died, Leona lived with her daughter Sandy and son-in-law Dave in Deming, and her son Rick lived nearby in Deming with his wife Christina.
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, NM. She 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 someday.” She enjoyed camping with her family when they lived in California, and later 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 and friends over the years. Leona loved, cherished, and was extremely proud of each of her grandchildren. 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, NM, son and daughter-in-law, Rick and Chris Riggs of Deming, NM, and daughter-in-law, Sue Riggs, of Sitka, AK. She is also survived by 8 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 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. 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 Covid concerns, there will be no service 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, Alaska, at some time to spread her ashes together with Lindsey’s. Cremation was entrusted to Baca’s Mimbres Crematory.
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