Clara Mae Lyon Riggle, who was a longtime chief financial officer in her family’s heavy equipment business and was active in Roman Catholic parishes, died of coronavirus complications March 17 at her home in the Belvedere Square section of North Baltimore. She was 92.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Northwood Drive, she was the daughter of John H. Lyon and his wife, Julia Rose Schindler, who both worked in the family business. Mrs. Riggle’s parents owned a Waverly heavy construction equipment firm where she later spent her career.
She attended St. Ann School and was a 1946 Eastern High School graduate. She was class valedictorian, gave the commencement address and won academic honors.
“Her math teacher refused to give her 100% because she said nobody gets 100%, so she gave her 99%,” said her daughter, Anne Rose Riggle. “We fixed that at her 90th birthday celebration when we gave her a certificate showing 100% in math.
“She was voted the most intelligent, excelled in math and chemistry, and a few of her classmates wrote that they would not have passed chemistry had it not been for Mom’s tutoring. She was the class speaker, and they wrote ‘a swell gal.’ She was a beauty and was known all her life for her beautiful hair.”
She earned a degree at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she also won academic honors.
She worked for nearly 50 years in her family’s business, John H. Lyon Contractors, in the 2700 block of Greenmount Ave. before selling it nearly 20 years ago.
“The word on the street was, ‘If John Lyon can’t fix it, nobody can,’ said her daughter. “She wrote the contracts, did the payroll and taxes, and handled the legal issues.”
Her daughter said Mrs. Riggle had a set routine. She rose at 5 a.m. and had a quiet hour and a peaceful breakfast. By 6 a.m. her five children came into the kitchen for breakfast, which she prepared along with their school lunches.
“She was off to work at 9 a.m. and home again at 3 p.m.,” her daughter said. “She wanted to be around when her children got home from school. Then she took off for the old Acme at The Alameda Shopping Center and bought what she was serving for dinner. Often my grandparents joined us for the meal.”
On Sundays Mrs. Riggle altered her domestic routine.
“She bought doughnuts at Silber’s Bakery and served a large breakfast of pancakes and eggs,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Riggle was called upon to use her financial skills for the parish of St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea.
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“She was the volunteer bookkeeper for the parish and school. She was kind, quiet and soft-spoken,” said Msgr. Thomas Tewes, former pastor at the church.
"She was a delightful lady and beautiful person,” he said. “She handled the job well. She was humble and extremely talented. And she was not one who wanted to be recognized for the excellent work she did.”
Mrs. Riggle volunteered to drive the School Sisters of Notre Dame to appointments. She was also a school volunteer at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Govans, where she worshipped and also assisted when a need arose at Saints Philip and James in Charles Village.
“My mother was the kind of person who enjoyed cooking and prepared home-cooked meals for at least nine people every evening up until her old age,” said her daughter. “Her specialties were spaghetti and meatballs [she made her own tomato sauce], roast beef and the steamed shrimp we had on Fridays.”
Her memorial service will be held at noon April 24 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church at 5502 York Road.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Mary Claire Ingalls and Maureen Wakefield, both of Baltimore; a son, Jon Riggle of Stoneleigh; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Her marriage to Leonard Robert Riggle ended in divorce. A son, Paul Riggle, died in 1993.