Phil Riggs of Glovertown has never found it hard to name his hero.
“Dad [Clarence Riggs] has been as much of a hero to me as he has been my father. It’s been an unbelievable journey with him, fishing in pools and ponds for salmon and trout. We spent so many years walking (in) the woods, checking on our snares for rabbits and grouse. We’ve also travelled both short distances and many kilometres, looking for abundant patches of blueberries, partridgeberries, squashberries or cranberries,” Phil wrote in a book he has self-published about his father’s colourful life.
Teacher, Hunter, Fisher, Musician: A 101 Years in the Life of Clarence Riggs is the story of a man affectionately known as Clar. Glovertown lost its oldest resident when he died on May 24, 2017.
In the book, Phil takes readers through his father’s earliest days and his years growing up on the Burin Peninsula, his teaching career, raising a family and his retirement years.
Clar was three years old when his father, Thomas Riggs, perished at sea. The entire crew of Mina Swim was lost during a storm in February 1917.
“In the book, I’ve got three or four theories that Dad told me about ... one, they were accidently rammed by another boat and of course the war was on, so they could have been sunk, but more than likely it was a storm that took them,” Phil said in a phone interview.
Clar and his wife, Neatha, settled in Glovertown in 1952. Though he taught in many communities throughout the province, Glovertown remained the couple’s home base and is where they found contentment in retirement.
Clar’s teaching career spanned almost four decades. In the 1960s, he taught in Cartwright and North West River. While living in Cartwright, he and Neatha were house parents at the Grenfell Mission’s dormitories, with 60 students under their care.
Wherever he was teaching, Clar found time to give back to the community through his volunteer work. He was a founding member of the Alexander Bay Lions Club and an Anglican lay reader for 65 years. During most of his time as lay reader, he also volunteered as the church’s organist.
Clar and Neatha were married for more than 65 years and raised four children. Neatha, who was also a longtime volunteer, passed away in 2013.
While teaching, sports and music were among Clar’s passions. His love for the outdoors, especially the Terra Nova River, was his greatest joy, Phil said.
Clar helped many novice fishermen in the art of fly casting and put them in the right fishing spots to hook their first salmon, Phil added. One of the Phil’s yarns in the book confirms just how passionate his father was about his fishing adventures.
Phil recalled how a friend of his had a unique clock mounted on the wall of his cabin. The exterior was made of pine. However, instead of the normal hourly numbers, from one to 12, it was adorned with “the finest English-feathered salmon flies you could imagine.”
He knew it would make a great gift for his dad for Father’s Day. His father loved the clock, he said, and proudly displayed it on the wall of his cabin.
A couple of weeks later, Phil saw just how impressed his father was with the gift.
“Three of the flies were removed from the clock and were placed on his fishing line to catch his salmon in his favourite fishing pool — Clar’s Run!’” Phil wrote.
Phil sums up his relationship with his father as more like buddies than father and son.
“We did so much and shared so much together. His mind was sharp right up till he passed away. We could always chat about sports, fishing, hunting or any other interest. It certainly was a unique and wonderful relationship,” he said.
Phil’s stories have been published in numerous magazines. His first non-fiction book, Hiking the Spanish, Portuguese and French Caminos: A Soulful Journey, was released in 2015. His children’s book, Little Heartbroken Angel, will be published in the fall and he is currently looking for a publisher for his environmental children’s book.
The book about his father’s life can be found at the Book Worm in Gander, Cashin’s Chestnut Tree Cafe in Gambo, Glovertown PharmaChoice and Timber & Twine in Glovertown, Burin PharmaChoice, the town office in Burin and Eastport PharmaChoice. Copies can also be purchased by emailing Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org.