February 20, 1929 – August 4, 2020
Harriett Lee Davis Riggs died peacefully with her family at her side in Houston, Texas on August 4, 2020 at the age of 91. She was nurse who devoted her life to caring for women, children and her family.
She was born on February 20, 1929, the daughter of Harry Rosser Davis and Eva Myrtle Williams Davis in Dallas, Texas where she grew up, an only child surrounded by adoring aunts and uncles. In 1946 she graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and enrolled in North Texas State College but excitedly transferred in 1948 to “University of Texas College of Nursing in Galveston”, now known as UTMB School of Nursing, because of their new nursing bachelor’s degree program. Her nursing school class was memorialized as the “Mighty Ten”, a landmark in the school history. She graduated in 1951 and married the love of her life Stuart Riggs. She worked as a staff nurse and head nurse in Texas and Iowa as Stuart pursued his medical career. In 1957 she retired from nursing to assume full-time parental duties for their young family: Robert Stuart born 1956; David Thomas born 1957; and John William born 1959.
Although for many years she was not employed as a nurse, nursing was a way of life for her. In 1968 she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer and in 1970 joined other American Cancer Society volunteers to establish Reach to Recovery in Texas, passionately supporting countless women with breast cancer. She traveled back to Dallas for many years to care for her numerous aging relatives as they reached the ends of their lives. When her middle son, David, became ill with severe childhood asthma she learned the art and science of modern asthma treatment and cared for him until his death in 1971.
In 1975, shaken by the trauma of their son’s death, Harriett and Stuart divorced amicably. At the age of 47, Harriett zealously reengaged in professional nursing. Between 1976 and 1988 she joined the UTMB School of Nursing faculty, earned a master’s degree in Maternal Child Nursing, certification as a nurse practitioner, and PhD, aided by her friends and mentors Shirley Steele and Ruth Marcott. Her dissertation was titled “Contributions of the Black Adolescent Mother and her Newborn Toward the Establishment of Dyadic Adaptation”. She commuted between Austin, Galveston and her home in Houston, while also teaching maternal-child nursing, writing textbook chapters, and talking constantly about the importance of nursing to assist young mothers and their children to form strong family bonds. She cherished her companionship with her peers and frequently encouraged everyone she encountered to seek more education.
Despite her love for the profession of nursing, Harriett often said that her greatest joy was spending time with her close-knit family. She earned the endearment “Grammy” from her grandchildren for her wonderful hugs, car rides to school and cookie baking lessons. Her sons often joked that she really got her PhD for being a grandmother. As the grandchildren multiplied, the fondness she and Stuart had once enjoyed was rekindled, and on May 26, 1990
she and Stuart remarried, spending the rest of their days as if they never parted. Harriett’s faith in God, her love of life and selfless care for others was always a beacon for the family she formed.
Harriett is survived by her sons, Robert and John and preceded in death by her husband Stuart (2014) and son David (1971). She is additionally survived by two loving daughters-in-law, Marianna Buzzee Riggs, and Cathleen Cournyer Riggs and her six grandchildren, Robert David Riggs, Sonia Elena Riggs, Carmen Lee Riggs, Keith Luis Riggs, Kevin David Riggs, John Bayard Riggs, two granddaughters-in-law, Jill Ferguson Riggs and Jordana Lembo Riggs, and three great-grandsons Alejandro Pelayo Riggs, Diego Antonio Riggs and Theodore Joseph Riggs. One week before her death she met her first great-granddaughter, Hazel Carlene Riggs. She loved Tim and Charo Wippold and their sons, Guillermo and Jose as part of her extended family, and she would not want anyone to forget the bond between her family and the family of Luis and Teresa Delclos, which redefines kinship.
Memorial Service will be offered on Facebook live on August 10, 2020 at 9:30 PM . https://www.facebook.com/ForestParkWestheimer/
Virtual Zoom Memorial August 10, 2020 at 6pm Virtual Memorial Service for Harriett Riggs: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82855634755?pwd=MFZZOUpLajQ2eDZvbTVEdjdmcCtWZz09
In Lieu of flowers, please make a donations to the UTMB School of Nursing Scholarship Fund (https://alumni.utmb.edu/songiving) or Bellaire United Methodist Church (https://www.bellaireumc.org/give).
Monday, August 10, 2020