Funeral services were held Saturday for Tom Riggin, the longtime Anne Arundel County Liquor Board chairman, who died Jan. 6 at the age of 87.
Riggin’s daughter Kristin Fleckenstein said he went out on his terms and at peace. In late December, Riggin was in the hospital with declining health. The family called in Hospice of the Chesapeake.
He was alert, jovial, making plans. That Saturday, Riggin watched the football game with his caregiver. He went to bed, and didn’t regain consciousness Sunday morning. He was still breathing – still hanging on.
There was enough time for Fleckenstein and her sisters Wendy Killian and Laura Reddish and their spouses and children to gather and send him off with love. Fleckenstein said although his death was far more sudden than the family expected, she was at peace.
“We never finished a conversation without ‘I love you’ or ‘I love you very much’, never ‘talk to you later’,” Fleckenstein said. “I feel very blessed those were his last words to me. If those are the last words you sign off with, you’ll never have regrets.”
Fleckenstein said that was her dad – he made sure his family knew they were important and loved. She said he adored his daughters and his family, and he never knew a stranger. Riggin had the gift of gab, and Fleckenstein said he used it well.
“If you poured him a cup of coffee or served him a donut, within five minutes he knew your children’s names and where you grew up,” she said.
Riggin’s friends weren’t limited to bipeds – Fleckenstein said his deck was the world’s largest bird feeder. And raccoon, opossum and squirrel feeder. The feral cats were fed on the front porch, where Riggin constructed box shelters for his feline visitors.
Riggin would purchase enormous sacks of seed, ocean whitefish cat food by the case and peanuts for the raccoons – but of course, the raccoons would need to wash their peanuts before consumption.
“We don't think the wildlife around my father’s home knows how to fend for itself – there are entire generations of raccoons that have grown up eating from his deck – we’re very concerned for wildlife in woodland areas of father's home,” she chuckled.
Fleckenstein said Riggin’s two pet cats knew what was happening, and snuggled in bed next to his legs during Riggin’s last day – captured in one of the last photos she took of her dad.
She said Riggin grew up very poor in South Baltimore, and because of his humble beginnings, Riggin had a passion for giving back. She said during his final few years, which included several falls and calls for help to the Glen Burnie Fire Department, Riggin would insist on a follow-up phone call.
“Dad would call the fire hall or whoever had given wonderful service, and find out how many were working on that shift, and then he would buy crab cake dinners for everyone on the shift,” she said.
Sometimes a thank-you would be a baseball autographed by his friend Brooks Robinson – not because he wanted the recipient to be impressed, Fleckenstein said, but because Riggin knew it would bring happiness.
Riggin worked for Baker and Taylor, a book wholesaler. In his early days, Fleckenstein said there weren’t many ways for a book to be acquired. Riggin was the school sales manager, then government sales manager and finally international sales manager.
Fleckenstein said her father loved to read, and loved working with librarians and those who would select books. He had an affinity for rare or weird books and antiques.
His work took him all over the globe, with Riggin bringing along his family when he could. Fleckenstein thought it was exotic and glamorous until more recently, when she needed to travel regularly for business.
She talked with Riggin about it, recalling when she’d fold his dress shirts to fit neatly for packing. Her dad admitted that he never got used to being away from home.
“Sometimes, when you’re in your hotel room at night, you realize you’d rather being eating spaghetti on the couch with your family,” she said.
The Riggin family spent their Thanksgiving holidays at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay resort in Cambridge, and Riggin always made sure to bring along rolls of quarters for the grandchildren. In her daughter’s eulogy for her grandfather, Fleckenstein said her daughter realized it hadn’t been about the money – Riggin loved the togetherness and tradition of the whole family venturing to the game room for some play.
Riggin’s appointment to the county liquor board served his personality well – Fleckenstein said he knew all the restaurant and liquor store owners. He loved to visit, hear their stories and tell his. He was active in and loved the political scene, making fast friends and offering advice.
Another of Riggin’s passions was recognizing that some kids need a little help to have the same opportunities as others, so he became involved with the Take Back our Streets program. Somewhere along the line, somehow, Riggin bought a bus for the organization – but Riggin wasn’t sure how he’d committed.
“So, Dad just told Sen. Mike Wagner, ‘I’m buying a bus, you’re buying another,’ and he was abundantly proud to provide transportation for the kids,” Fleckenstein said.
Army Field Band concert
The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus will perform “The Army Story” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the North County High School auditorium, 10 E. First Ave.
The free concert, which will include visual elements, will present well-known music depicting soldiers’ lives and sacrifice. For tickets, call 443-962-4012. For more information, visit www.ArmyFieldBand.com.
To share your news in the Glen Burnie area, contact Amy Laque at MDGazetteAmy@gmail.com or 443-924-6440. Follow her on Twitter @GlenBurnieTalk.