Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal
From Holyrood to Ell-Saline, Alice Riggs has been a Cardinal all her life. She grew up in Holyrood, Kansas, where she met her husband, Archie, while walking down the street with her mother. Archie, who grew up in Cottonwood Falls, was visiting his cousin, Dennis. The two were out for an afternoon drive and had driven to Holyrood from the town over.
"Dennis stopped and said, 'You want to go for a ride?'" said Alice. "And I said, 'sure!"
"She only got in the car because of Dennis," Archie said with a smile.
The rest was history. About a month later, Archie went to Vietnam. Alice and Archie stayed in touch, recording messages on tape and mailing them back and forth to one another. They only spoke once over the phone while he was overseas.
While Archie was away, Alice worked hard in school at Fort Hays State University. The only way her mom would give them permission to get married was if she got her degree, so she took extra hours and graduated in three and a half years. The Riggs, who are both only children, got married at the United Church of Christ in Holyrood on Halloween, October 31. "That way I don't forget," said Archie.
A Career in Teaching
Archie went on to get ta new job as a calculator salesman in Salina, so the newlyweds packed their bags and hit the road for their new home. August rolled around, and Alice still hadn't gotten a job.
"I got a call from Happy Corner, now Ell-Saline Elementary," said Alice. "I went out there to interview and, later that day, the principal brought a contract to our apartment."
For the first few years, Alice taught second grade, then first, then a combination of the two. She finally settled in teaching first grade, where she remained for the rest of her 35-year career. Now retired, Alice still spends one to two days a week as a substitute at the school, where she has taught multiple generations of many Ell-Saline families. "Ell-Saline has been an excellent place for me to be," said Alice. "I'm very glad that I got out there and can still be out there. I just love the kids. They're good kids. I feel like family there."
Archie said Alice's students feel the same way about her. "One of the best things that happens is when we go over to Sandstone Saloon in Brookville," he said. "For Alice, it's like going to 'Cheers.' The best part is when a young man, with a full beard, comes up and gives her a hug."
Paying it Forward
When Alice's last class of students graduated in May 2018, the Riggs decided to do something special to give back to the Ell-Saline community. They established the Alice A. Riggs Ell-Saline K-State Scholarship at the Greater Salina Community Foundation, which is awarded annually to a graduating Ell-Saline senior who plans to attend Kansas State University in Manhattan.
The Riggs decided to include K-State after spending time there while their two daughters were in school. They are also big K-State football fans. "We've just realized that K-State is a really, really good place to be, and there's a lot of kids that go there," said Alice. "That's why we chose K-State. K-State was an important part of our lives."
Alice said the most rewarding part of the scholarship is helping the students. "Because college is so expensive, I like to think that we're contributing a little bit to the cost they're going to have to pay," she said.
Both Archie and Alice have come to deeply value the relationships they've built across the community over the years, and they are grateful for the opportunity to give back. "I don't really feel like I'm from Cottonwood Falls," said Archie. "our life has been here. Our daughters were born here. We're really from Salina."
"I just want to be remembered for loving the kids and hoping that I made an impact on their life," said Alice. "It's the relationships that are so important to me. My last class graduated in May, but I'm still out at Ell-Saline enough that the kids all know me. And if I'm out somewhere, I still here 'Hi Mrs. Riggs!"
"It's the relationships that I've built through the years out there that are very, very important to me."