Obituary of Rolan Edward Riggers
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Rolan Edward Riggers passed away on Sunday, July 23, 2023, at approximately 5:20 am at Northridge Hospital and Medical Center in Northridge, California at the age of 84 years old. He was born in Durant, Iowa on Saturday, February 4, 1939, to Frederick William Riggers, auto mechanic and auto body "fender" man and Elsie Myrna (Pohlman) Riggers, a housewife. He was the thrid born of eleven children and was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings Thomas, Melvin, Marabelle, and Mae. Growing up, he loved working with his hands and was always fascinated by machines, automobiles, and how things worked. He also enjoyed cooking, helping his mother can fruits and vegetables, and baking. He loved fishing, and listening to Westerns and gangster radio shows. He always called Indiana his home and his heart was always with his dear mother who lived there. Rolan’s favorite childhood memories were days spent visiting his favorite Aunt Leona and playing with his siblings and cousins along the shores of Lake Michigan. He often mentioned that his dearest cousin was Roy Harmon, and that he much admired and looked up to him. He often shared memories with me of picking and eating fresh blackberries in his mother’s back yard with a tender, wistful smile. A funny story that he shared with us of his childhood was a time that he sat behind his childhood sweetheart in school. His childhood flame wore a long, blonde ponytail. He thought he would play a funny joke and dipped the tip of her blonde ponytail into the inkwell on his desk. His sweetheart did not find it funny, and he got into a lot of trouble with the teacher as well as from his Daddy when he got home. I can still see his blue eyes sparkle as he told me that she probably had the first punk-rock blonde/blue hair style. At the tender age of 16, turbulence caused by his father’s failing mental health forced him to leave home and all he knew. He journeyed west to California to stay with his cousins. He fell in love with the west coast and said he always felt his destiny was waiting for him here. He told us stories about traveling across the country by car and that he loved finding adventure on the open road. He told us about favorite jobs that he held as a young man including working as a fry cook in a diner and as a mechanic in several auto shops. He would beam with pride while speaking of how he always sought to do his best, no matter what the task. Rolan joined the Marine Corps in January of 1958 when he was only 19 years old. He was so proud to be a Marine and had high hopes for a long, successful military career. He wanted to be a mechanic and work on the military vehicles. Unfortunately his career was cut short, and he was honorably discharged only two months later in April of 1958, after suffering a severe internal derangement of his left knee during a parachuting exercise in Basic Training. Rolan met the love of his life in his early twenties and, on June 3, 1967, his dreams of love and family came true when he married Merle Ann Baker, a single mother with a beautiful little girl named Thomasina. Merle was only 4’11” and Rolan always affectionately referred to her as his ‘Little Bit’. Rolan and Merle had three children together: Mary, Mark, and Roslyn. Life is not always simple and for reasons of their own that their children could never clearly understand, Rolan and Merle separated in 1976. They had recently moved to Northern Nevada where Rolan found work as a mechanic on a cattle ranch and Merle settled in as a groundskeeper on a little horse ranch working for an elderly couple outside of Winnemucca. Rolan left Nevada to return to California and complete the sale of their home in Long Beach. It was during this time away that Rolan met the woman who would become the next great love in his life, Sybil Farrell. Sybil had a young daughter named Lisa and a toddler son named Randy. Rolan and Sybil decided to start a new life together and had a beautiful baby girl named Rolena in 1978. Rolan was a loving stepfather to Sybil’s children as well as devoted to and proud of his new baby daughter. In 1981, Rolan helped Merle and their four children make a major move and return to Southern California. A few years later, in yet another strange twist of life, after 8 years together, Rolan and Sybil mutually decided to part ways. Rolan and Merle reunited soon afterward in 1984, and their love story continued for another 36 years until Merle passed from Covid-19 in May of 2020. Rolan adored animals and they loved him. He had a beloved calico cat named Sunset who was his steadfast companion for two decades. He loved birds of all kinds and loved to sit on his front porch for hours and watch the doves and hummingbirds visit the bird feeders and bird houses he always kept out for them. He had a beloved Cockateel named Scratches in the 90’s. He spent the last two years of his life with the company of a sweet little white Terrier named Raimi who always knew where to go beg a treat or a scratch to his ears. Rolan loved arts and crafts. He became quite skilled at needlepoint and cross-stitch. He created many toys for his grandchildren using this skill, such as toy farms, dollhouses, and even a Barbie motorhome! Rolan loved music – Country and western music in particular, but also Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, and old Soul music. He loved cowboy and Western movies and TV shows – As well as action films and TV series involving the military, police, fire departments, as well as old gangster films. Some of his favorite TV shows over the years were Bonanza, The Big Valley, Emergency, Gun Smoke, One Adam Twelve, Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files and in later years, NYPD Blue, True Crime, and Blue Bloods. While Rolan was a Jack of All Trades throughout his young adulthood, his passion for the open road and driving finally led him to his dream career as an over-the-road Commercial Truck driver. He spent nearly thirty years of his life traveling up and down the West Coast and from the West to the East Coast of the United States driving for LeaseWay and Toyota. A terrible accident on the way home from a cross country trip eventually ended his driving career in 1998. He never got over the heartbreak of having to give up the Trucker life and always had a great story to tell of his adventures on the open road. Rolan was plagued with a long history of health and heart issues, Arthritis and COPD. As he aged, it became apparent that dementia was robbing him of his short-term memories. In the end, he always knew where he was, he just had no idea ‘when’ he was. He could not tell you what day of the week, what season, or what year it was; but thankfully, he always knew who he was with and where he was. Sadly, he lost the memory of how to do his needlepoint and could no longer remember how to cook and prepare his meals. His firstborn grandson Dustin stepped up into the role of full-time caretaker for Rolan and lived with him for the last decade of his life. Dustin made sure that Rolan got his medications, his regular meals, made it to all of his medical appointments, took him to visit his wife Merle every day in the nursing home where she was bedridden with Parkinson’s disease from 2014-2020. Most importantly, because of Dustin’s loving care, Rolan was able to spend his final years living in his own home and never needed to enter a memory-care facility. Regardless of his circumstances, Rolan always had a big smile, a silly song or a joke for everyone, and was well loved by all who knew him. He was known for his wacky sense of humor and generous nature. He would give you the shirt off his back without hesitation. No one was a stranger to him – just friends that he had not met yet. In May of 2020, when the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic swept the land, his beloved wife Merle succumbed to the virus and passed away. In some ways, Rolan’s dementia was a blessing as most days he did not remember that she had passed away and thought that she was still away in the nursing home, or away on a trip somewhere. Tragedy struck when Rolan suffered a massive stroke during the early morning hours on Friday, July 7, 2023. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and underwent a lengthy procedure to remove a blood clot from the artery in his neck. To the heartbreak of his family and all who knew and loved him, results of imaging showed irreparable damage to the left side of his brain and his condition was grave. His family made the painful decision to begin hospice care for Rolan and make his last days as comfortable as possible. His daughters Thomasina and Mary were at his bedside constantly throughout his final days and hours. His children and grandchildren made their way to his side to say good-bye and he did his best to smile and give their hands a squeeze. Rolan passed away peacefully in the early morning on July 23rd, 2023, with his daughter Mary holding his hand. His pain and confusion are no more, He can rest in the arms of the Lord now. His family is deeply grateful to the staff of Vitas Hospice Care and Valley of Peace Mortuary for their tender care and support throughout Rolan’s final days and after his passing. Rolan is survived by his five children and their spouses: Thomasina Jeannette (Herb) Hutchinson, Mary Catherine (John) Phillips, Mark Edward Riggers, and Roslyn Ann (William) McGarry, and Rolena (Mark) Stinson. He is also mourned by his two stepchildren Lisa Harris and Randy (Robyn) Farrell. He is survived by his Grandchildren: Dustin Riggers, Toni Somers, Logan (Blair) Somers, Garrett Phillips, Cory (Phoebe) Smith, Nicole Smith, Joshua (Hannah) Hutchinson, Kristy Rose (Jorge) Carr, Jake Sundelius, Robyn Sundelius and Jasper (Haeli) Hopper. Great-Grandchildren: Jaylah, Bailey, Andrew, Silas, Zeddicus, Oliver, Luka, Christopher, Owyn, and step-grandson Trevor. He is also survived by sisters: Ruth, Rita, Elaine and Sharon, and his brothers: Dennis and Sherman Riggers, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. The world has lost a gentle and loving man in the passing of Rolan, and his memory will be held dear in the hearts and minds of his family and many friends. Final Arrangements: There is a Go Fund Me Page set up for Rolan’s final expenses by his daughter, Mary. We are grateful for the generous donations that have been received. The date for his graveside service and celebration of life are still to be determined. He will be inurned in the beautiful mausoleum at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Simi Valley, California alongside his wife Merle. Graveside service will include a dove release in Rolan’s memory. As he has joined his wife in Paradise, his final resting place will be right at her side. We love you forever and always, Rolan. Rest in Peace with Jesus and the Angels of Heaven. Graveside Service with Dove Release Saturday September 9th at 11am Assumption Catholic Cemetery 1380 Fitzgerald Rd, Simi Valley, CA 93065 Celebration of Life to follow, please contact family directly for details.
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