By Leonardo Romero
La Habra Journal
When La Habra resident Burnice Riggin’s brother brought home his friend, Herbert Riggin, to stay with them in July 1941 she was extremely upset that she had to give up her room for him to sleep in. That anger towards him eventually turned into love, because five months later they got married on December 12, 1941 in East Los Angeles.
The married couple recently held their 75th anniversary celebration on Sunday, November 27 at the Rio Hondo Event Center with over 40 close friends and family members.
The festivities included live music, photos on display of them throughout the years, and speeches from family members including a special speech from daughter-in-law Linda Riggin explaining how Herbert and Burnice first met as well as other momentous occasions from their lives.
“We planned to have the party on our 75th anniversary, but everywhere we looked was already booked on that date,” said Burnice Riggin. “We had our party a little early, and everything turned out right.
When asked what the secret was to a long marriage, they said communication and remaining friends.
“You just say ‘yes dear’ and don’t talk back,” Herbert said with a laugh.
Herbert Riggin was born in Spokane, Washington in January 1921, and traveled throughout the United States as a child since his father worked as a railroad builder. Burnice Riggin’s father worked in oil fields building oil wells. She was born in East Los Angeles in June 1922.
On the day of their wedding Herbert received the unfortunate news that he was being laid off from the tire factory he worked at, because it was being converted into a factory that produced gas tanks for Boeing B-17 four-engine bomber planes.
They still decided to get married in spite of his job loss and the fact that his draft number was going to be drawn soon.
Herbert decided that instead of being drafted into a position he wouldn’t prefer he’d rather have his choice, so he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Beginning in the summer of 1942 he was sent off to various states including Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah until he was sent overseas. Burnice followed her husband to every state he went along with their first son, Ronald Herbert Riggin.
Herbert went off to fight in World War II for three years until his camp was bombed and he was injured. He was flown to Fitzsimons’s Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado in November 1945. There he received his discharge papers and the honorary Purple Heart decoration for his valiant services.
Within the Riggin’s home is a room with two walls covered in frames containing documents, letters, medals, and photos collected from Herbert’s time in the military.
Post-war life for Herbert included becoming a beer delivery truck driver for Lucky Lager, and eventually became the brewing company’s top salesman in all western states. Their second son, Robert Larry Riggin, was born in 1948, and soon afterwards Burnice worked for 28 years at Washington Grammar School within the Montebello School District as a cafeteria worker.
They both retired in 1977, and moved to their current home in La Habra. According to their granddaughter Kristy McLendon, her grandparents have incredibly friendly and thoughtful neighbors that check up on them every day to make sure they’re okay and bring them food often.
McLendon shared some wise insight she received from her grandparents, “I remember they advised me when I got married that within a relationship you need to fix the problems you have, and you don’t just go out and get a new one.”