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Riggs legacy continues as daughter takes funeral home reins

POSTED: July 31, 2018 9:17 a.m.
Mark Lastinger/staff/

Riggs Funeral Home owner and operator Heather Riggs reminisces with new funeral director Luke Sheridan in a visitation room.

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GUYTON — A noise that Heather Riggs used to find quite annoying has evolved into a beautiful sound.

Unfortunately, Heather can only hear the noise in memories of a man that she dearly loved — her father, Merrill “Bubba” Riggs. He died at his residence on March 11 at the age of 63.

“He used to drive me crazy by jingling the change in his pocket,” she said. “He would do it all the time and I would fuss at him about it. Now I would give anything to hear it again.”

Heather was severely impacted by her father’s passing on two fronts. In addition to being her daddy, he was her boss at Riggs Funeral Home.
Now she is the 29-year-old owner and operator of the business her grandparents started in 1999. It is located at 1979 Ga. Hwy 119 South.

She knows she has rather large shoes to fill. Her father was a renowned character known for his gregarious nature and penchant for jokes.

“He was definitely a people person,” she said. “He was friends with everybody.”

Heather Riggs inherited her father’s outgoing personality and intends to follow his business blueprint, which is to treat customers like family members. She said an email she recently received from her sister, Briana, captured his essence perfectly.

The email states, “Our dad was never in it for the money. He was there to help people whenever they needed him the most. While there are a lot of exciting changes happening here, we continue to hold true to Dad’s values.”

“I think that is true because he didn’t do it for the money,” Heather Riggs said. “He did believe in helping people.”

Owning a funeral home wasn’t in her original career plans. When she graduated from Effingham County High School in 2007, she wanted to be a teacher.

“Then I started working here and I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I guess that I am my dad’s child in that I like to talk to people and help them, too.”

Ironically, Heather has tons of fond childhood memories in a place where grief frequently reigns supreme.

She recalled having a family Easter egg hunt in the funeral home one year and also remembered using various visitation rooms as “doctor’s offices” for teddy bears.

“The teddy bear would go in there and, if it had a broken leg, it would get fixed,” she said. “We’ve done a lot things. Dad would let you do whatever.

“He didn’t care.”

Heather has unpleasant memories in the funeral home, too. In the four months following her father’s death, she had to deal with her grief while being thrust into the role of the funeral home's leader.

She said the support of a couple of her father’s friends in the funeral business was vital to surviving a difficult personal and professional stretch.

See the Aug. 1 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.


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