Dr. Sidney Noyes Riggs, educator, writer and artist, died at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Sunday after a long period of failing health. He was 83 years old. His place in Island life for many years had been one of manifold useful activity and wide friendships.
His influence on the Vineyard was unusually wide, not only because of the positions he held in fields of his special interests, but because of his willingness and warmth, and the persuasiveness of his example. He was long active in Boy Scout work, he was a member of the diaconate of the West Tisbury Congregational Church and initiated the long successful summer lectures, and he was identified with a wide range of civic and cultural programs ranging from history to literature and conversation.
After his graduation from the Newark public schools he completed the course at Mount Pleasant Academy in Ossining, N.Y., and later took courses in administration and supervision at Teachers College at Columbia University.
Dr. Riggs was graduated from Syracuse University with the degree of B.S. and after completing courses in administration and supervision at Teachers College, Columbia University, took his M.A. and later his Ph.D. at New York University.
He taught for a year at Syracuse University and then in the Kearny High School in New Jersey. For many years he served as principal of the Schuyler School in Kearny.
He served for three years in the Army, first on the Mexican border with the First New York Cavalry, and later with the 104th Field Artillery in France. He was wounded in action, and rose through the ranks to the grade of captain. After World War I he was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart, and the Verdun Medal by the city of Verdun in France.
He answered a questionaire which led to his employment by Thomas A. Edison in the Edison laboratories in New Jersey, his work bringing him into association with Mr. Edison himself.
Again in World War II he was commissioned as a captain in the regular Army and served throughout the war, at the end of which he had been commissioned a major.
He was a seasonal visitor to the Vineyard beginning in 1921, and married the former Dionis Coffin of West Tisbury. They observed their golden wedding anniversary in 1972 with an unusual outpouring of friendship and regard by Island neighbors.
Dr. Riggs resigned his principalship in New Jersey in 1954 and proceeded to live an active second career on the Island. He served as president of the Dukes County Historical Society, taught courses in Vineyard history and literature in the adult education classes of the Regional High School.
In 1940 Mrs. Riggs published her book, From Off Island, based on the life of Captain and Mrs. James Cleaveland, and Dr. Riggs had collaborated in the writing. His linoleum block prints, an art in which he excelled, attracted attention as far back as the early 1930s, and his prints illustrated his wife’s volume of poetry, Seaborn Island, and other Island publications. He gave generously of this artistic skill. A volume of his prints illustrating poems by Joseph Chase Allen, Vineyard Poems and Prints, appeared in 1936.
Dr. Riggs was also author of a novel, Arrows and Snakeskin, published by Lippincott in 1961,
In 1963 Dr. and Mrs. Riggs made an extensive overseas tour, visiting their son in law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. William A. Fielder in Ankara, Turkey, stopping some time in Greece, and then to English Tisbury and Chilmark strengthened the ties of sentiment between those towns and the Island towns of the same name.
He was a member of Martha’s Vineyard Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and served as chairman of the West Tisbury Conservation Commission.
Dr. Riggs is survived by his wife and by three daughters, Mrs. Ralph J. Jones, Mrs. George E. Stoertz, and Mrs. Fielder.
There are 14 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Funeral services were held at the West Tisbury Church on Wednesday afternoon, Rev. Elden H. Mills delivering a deeply felt tribute to an old friend and church worker. Dr. Mills referred to Mr. Riggs as a towering personality with a closely knit family of which every member was an individual. He read with simplicity and feeling two poems by Dionis Riggs, the second written for her husband. The flowers on the alter were from the gardens of Mrs. Riggs and West Tisbury neighbors.
Interment took place in the West Tisbury cemetery.