1944 – 2005
If, as Shakespeare says, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts,” then it may be said that Sydney Ann Samuelson Riggs has gone to play a new role with a heavenly cast. Syd Riggs, 60, of Orem exited this life on June 18, 2005, of pulmonary embolism. She will be missed by family, friends, and hundreds of people young and old in the theater community who admired her energy, enthusiasm, positive outlook, and artistic integrity. Thousands in Utah Valley and beyond have seen and loved the shows she directed. Syd was born December 7, 1944, in Salt Lake City to Dona Brady Nix and Lieutenant Colonel Almon Marion “Sam” Samuelson, who was stationed with the family in Europe for several years. Syd graduated from Orem High School in 1963 and later received her BA and MFA in Theater from BYU. She married Dennis Carl Riggs in the Salt Lake Temple on June 10, 1970. She has directed hundreds of plays in her career and has been a beloved teacher at Orem High School for over fifteen years.
Syd is survived by her husband Dennis Carl Riggs and their children: Heather, Orem; Adrian (Taaga J.) Young, Orem; Katharine (Elliott Hansen), Salt Lake; and Timothy, Orem; mother Dona Samuelson Johnson, Orem; brother, Scott (Shauna) Samuelson, Rexburg, Idaho; step siblings, Carol (Bob) Crist, Orem; Judy (Glade) Hunsaker, Provo; Spencer (Claudia) Johnson, Atlanta; Kim (Pam) Johnson, St. George; Shauna (Scott) Samuelson, Rexburg; Denice (Jim) Miller, Sedona, CA; “daughter” Amy R. Holt; many dogs, cats, horses, and birds. She is preceded in death by her father step-father Conrad A. Johnson and many other dogs, cats, horses, and birds.
One of the parts she played was that of a nurturer. Many of those she has taught and directed say, “She believed in me when no one else did,” “She always built my self-esteem,” “She gave me skills that are at the center of my life,” “She was like a mother to me,” “She made me stretch by requiring me to live up to my potential,” “She was a genius of musical theater,” “She brought light and truth to every class and production; when Syd asked if the production was telling the story, what she was really asking was “Are we telling the truth’?” Though she loved the theater, she loved her family and the gospel more. Her integrity was intact. An actor friend told of once changing a line in a performance to get more laughs. Syd asked him to change it back. “But it is funnier this way.” “But it’s not uplifting.” An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she fulfilled many callings and was especially gifted in teaching and encouraging youth. Syd loved nature – the mountains, the sunset, the moon, a warm summer night. In her Director’s Note to Brigadoon, her musical currently playing at the Hale Theater in Orem, she writes, “To allow ourselves to feel, to sense emotion, to smile at love, and believe in a miracle is what gives life color and texture.” Syd’s life was full of color and texture because she lived the miracle of love.
The viewings will be Tuesday, June 21, 2005, from 6-9 p.m. and Wednesday, June 22, from 10-11:45 a.m. at the Orem Stake Center at 80 South 280 East. The memorial service will be held at the same location, Wednesday, June 22 at 12 noon. Additional memorial services were held last Sunday evening at the Hale Center Theater, and in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Syd Riggs Fund, at Hale Center Theater, 225 West 400 North, Orem, Utah 84057. Condolences may be sent to the family at: www.walkerfamilymortuaries.com