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William H. Riggle ’50

A picture of William Riggle.

William H. Riggle ’50, February 18, 2010, at home, in Brentwood, California. Bill was born in Long Beach, California. During the Great Depression, his father's search for work took the family to Seattle, where Bill went to high school. “I have fond memories of Seattle's old Broadway High, which we used to call affectionately the 'Pine Street Jail,'” he wrote to a classmate in 2004. “I particularly recall with pleasure my four-year membership in the band.” Bill attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, until he turned 18 and was summarily drafted into the army. Trained as an infantryman in Georgia and as an artilleryman in Arkansas, he went overseas with the 744th Field Artillery Battalion. “We landed in England and crossed the Channel to join General Patton's 3rd Army. 'Old Blood and Guts' led us across France and deep into Germany, with side trips to Czechoslovakia and Austria.” Discharged in 1946, Bill came to Reed on a scholarship. “Reed afforded me a semi-cloistered life, wherein I could gradually overcome my very jaundiced opinion of mankind formed from nearly three years of army service.” He and 12 other veterans, the “13 Inmates,” as they called themselves, lived on the second floor of a residence hall that had been converted from an army barracks. “Inmates” included Alan Aspey ’50, Louis Corrigan ’50, Mason Gaffney ’48, Walter Mintz ’50, “Pete” Pedersen ’50, and Fred Schatz ’50. Bill's interest in music continued at Reed. He joined Portland Symphony Society and from time to time brought instrumental ensembles from the orchestra to perform in Winch, Capehart. It was a class in summer 1948, presented by Helga C. Peters [German, 1942-48], however, that became synonymous with his memory of Reed. Frau Peters introduced the veterans in her class to the novels of Erich Maria Remarque. Bill was deeply touched by her choice and her understanding of the experiences he and his classmates had encountered in the war. In Letters, in the November 2001 issue of Reed, Bill wrote that Frau Peters “was the most unforgettable, and without question the most beautiful and keen-spirited, instructor” he encountered on his academic journey. “By comparison, all of my other instructors were from 'Dullsville.'” Bill earned a BA from Reed in general literature and went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a MA and EdD while teaching English for 14 years at a nearby suburban high school. He joined the faculty of Berkeley's Graduate School of Education as academic administrator in 1966 and retired in 1983. In retirement, he was involved in numerous civic projects. He served as library commissioner for Contra Costa County (California) and was a member of Concord, California's Task Force. Bill was married to Grace Slater for 40 years. Two years after her death in 1992, he accepted a second opportunity for happiness in a marriage to Gisela Travis, who had been widowed. They made their home in Brentwood. Bill thoroughly enjoyed the music of Benny Goodman and Roy Orbison, but he especially delighted in symphonic classical music. He was a voracious reader of science, history, and poetry, and appreciated good writing. Gisela, who provided the details for this memorial, wrote that Bill was a scholarly, refined, and gracious man. “He was interesting, interested, and had a warm sense of humor. He lived by Bible principles, always taking the 'high road.' His speech was measured and deliberate. His gentle spirit contributed joy and harmony. Bill was esteemed and beloved by those who knew him. He was a most remarkable human being and a wonderful husband.” Survivors include Gisela, a daughter and son, and a granddaughter.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2011

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