SIGMA — Melva Riggs, born on Muddy Creek Road and a longtime resident of Sandbridge Road, turned 100 this past month, and extended family and friends gathered to celebrate her life a few days beforehand at Tabernacle United Methodist Church, where she played piano for decades.
Riggs, now a resident of Atlantic Shores Retirement Community, greeted family, friends and members of the church. “Oh, I know who that is,” she said, greeting one friend. “It’s good to see you.”
Moments later, she greeted Ronnie Dixon, all of nine months old, the son of a great-great granddaughter. He reached toward her. She beamed. “You see what I’ve got,” she said.
Many were with her, including her children. The youngest of four was Jim Riggs of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“I’m her baby,” he said.
“He’s my baby,” she agreed.
Her other children are Martha Riggs of Richmond, Terry Riggs of Chesapeake, and June Waterman of Knotts Island, N.C.
Martha Riggs, sitting near her mother, marveled at the 100th birthday celebration, saying she could not believe it. She spoke of her mother’s influence, how she helped make her what she is in the medical field.
“I was a nurse for 55 years, something she always wanted to be,” Martha Riggs said.
Arleigh Waterman of Stafford traveled to the celebration with his family. He said he was raised by Melva Riggs’ sister, but he remembered how Melva Riggs also helped shape him when he was young.
“She taught me lessons of life that became valuable later,” he said, adding that she might be surprised to know how many people she had influenced throughout her life.
When it was time to celebrate the birthday, people cheered her.
“Happy 100 years,” Jim Riggs said. “We love you.”
Charlie Wiseman, music director at Tabernacle, said she was a “wonderful, real old-time church pianist.”
“Not only a great musician,” he said, “but if I had a momma besides my mom I would want her to be that momma.”
As The Virginia Beach Sun once reported, Riggs’ chicken salad recipe was a star at the church’s Lotus Luncheon.
Another time, her pound cake drew praise. According to her family, she worked in cafeterias at Courthouse Elementary School and later Kellam High School.
She cooked often for church events.
She volunteered for events such as the annual Colonial Dinner here, and she also played in this church for six decades, well into her 90s.
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