Riggs, Leona

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Riggs, Leona

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1903-1994

History

Leona Riggs devoted her life to music, first as a performer in musical shows, then as a music teacher, choir director, and patron of the arts in her adopted city of Belleville, Ontario. She was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on February 17th, 1903 to Leo Bates Riggs, an accomplished pianist and organist, and Mabel Kathleen (nee DeGurre) Riggs, a vocal teacher.
Leona Riggs spent her early years in Indianapolis before moving to New York City, where her father was appointed organist at the Astor Hotel. After graduating from Yonkers High School, she studied at the Institute of Musical Art (later named Julliard School of Music) in New York, followed by attendance at the American Conservatory at Fontainbleu, France, ca. 1924-25. Another period of post graduate study followed at the Julliard School of Music in 1928-39. Subsequent to her studies in France, but before she returned to the Julliard School of Music, Leona Riggs toured the United States as a singer in the musical shows "The Vagabond King" and "Golden Dawn," from 1926-28.
In 1929, due to effects of the Depression, Leona Riggs moved to Belleville to join her parents and family, who had moved to Belleville from New York in 1924 so that her father could assist her ailing grandfather in his automobile business. In Belleville, Leona Riggs taught piano and vocal lessons from her home for many years. In addition, she was the choral director at John Street United Church from September 1933 until the church was destroyed in October of 1936. A year later, in 1937, Leona Riggs became the choral director at Bridge Street United Church, a position she held until 1951.
Leona Riggs expended great effort over the years in support of the Arts in the Quinte region; many concert artists were brought to perform before local audiences through the Community Concerts Association. She established a continuing scholarship fund that provides awards for graduating high school students in the Belleville area who plan to continue their musical studies.
Leona Riggs remained single throughout her life, leaving no immediate family behind upon her death in Belleville, on August 11th, 1994.

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