Betty Beason remembers her mother, Ida Belle Riggins, as being involved in all aspects of the Henderson community, no matter if it were with her church or the City Council.
“We would have the joke in our house,” Beason said. “If she was baking a cake, my dad would always have to ask, ‘Is that for us or for something else?’ ”
Even though Riggins held many titles in the Henderson community, Beason — a longtime resident who was announced as one of the grand marshals for the 60th Henderson Heritage Day Parade — remembers her mother as the down-to-earth caring soul who taught her how to play cards.
“That was her thing,” Beason said. “She taught us how to play and to cheat. You could always find her playing cards. We made the joke of putting a deck of cards in her casket.”
Riggins, with Beason and her two siblings in tow, moved to the Basic townsite in 1943, a decade before it was incorporated as the city of Henderson.
She was one of the original forklift operators at Basic Magnesium Inc.
“They were called the Magnesium Maggies,” said Mark Hall-Patton, the administrator for the Clark County Museum system. “Rosie the Riveter didn’t fit. They wanted a PR term to talk about these women.”
Riggins later worked for St. Rose Dominican Hospital Rose de Lima campus, starting as a dishwasher.
“She later became the dietician,” Beason said.
Riggins’ involvement kept growing. In 1953, Beason said she was asked by the Clark County School District to create the school lunch program.
After working for the school district, she served as a dietician for Sunrise Hospital until 1963.
In 1963, she was elected as the city of Henderson’s first city councilwoman, presiding over Ward 2.
The honor also resulted in her being named the “Woman of the Year” in 1963.
She served on the City Council until 1967.
“She was always just busy,” Beason said. “She would come home with stacks of material she had to go through. But she loved it.”
During her time on the City Council, she was also the mayor pro tem.
Even after leaving the City Council, Riggins remained on boards such as the Regional Planning Commission, the Beautification Commission and the National League of Cities.
According to Beason, Riggins played a role in creating many of the parks in Henderson while she served on the Beautification Commission.
Beason said her mother received the key to the city in the 1980s. Hall-Patton said she was also named Mother of the Year for Nevada in 1992.
“My mother got tons of recognitions,” Beason said. “It’s hard to remember them all.”
Riggins was also honored by having a street named for her in the Pittman area.
“I know she was honored,” she said. “Everything she won was such an honor. She was a very humble person.”
Even though Riggins’ legacy endures through a street name and countless recognitions, it is the legacy of her strong spirit that lives on in Beason.
“She was a very strong, determined person,” she said. “I guess I grew up to have a lot of her personality. At least that’s what I’m told.”
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.
Naming Las Vegas
The history behind the naming of various streets, parks, schools, public facilities and other landmarks in the Las Vegas Valley will continue to be explored in a series of feature stories appearing in View editions published on the first Tuesday of every month.
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