John W. Riggin Jr., a retired Bel Air artist who designed the candy wrapper logo for Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar, died of complications from a stroke at the Household of Angels Assisted Living Community in Severna Park on Nov. 28, his family said. He was 89.
The middle child of John W. Riggin Sr., a streetcar driver, and the former Margaret Keene, who worked at the Bendix Corp., John William Riggin Jr., was born in Baltimore on Aug. 3, 1928. His older sister, Juanita Pope, and younger brother, Joe Riggin, both predeceased him.
A broken leg at age nine left Mr. Riggin with spare time, which he filled by drawing — a hobby that would evolve into his life’s work.
His sketching talent was coupled with a soft-spoken demeanor, his sons said, and in addition to spending time with his family, he enjoyed reading fantasy novels on his daily 45-minute bus commute to Baltimore for work and developing his black-and-white photographs in a makeshift darkroom he built in the basement of the house.
“He was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever known,” said his elder son, John K. Riggin, 50, of Severna Park. “He didn’t lose his temper. He was very easygoing. At the same time, he was a very hardworking person.”
Mr. Riggin drew and painted throughout his time at Towson High School, and upon graduating in 1946, he received a scholarship to what is now known as the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1950.
He was then drafted into the Army, where he served two years during the Korean War after graduating. A heart murmur disqualified him from being deployed; instead, he designed posters and illustrations for the war effort.
He used his G.I. Bill financial assistance to continue his art studies at the Pratt Institute School of Design in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved back to the Baltimore area after graduating in 1955, his son said.
Mr. Riggin designed his own house in Bel Air Acres, and later married his wife, Eileen, a former art school classmate, in 1966. In their more than 40 years of marriage, the Riggins raised two sons and were devoted members of Bel Air United Methodist Church.
Mr. Riggin created the distinctive yellow-and-red Mr. Goodbar candy wrapper logo while working at the design firm Royal Dadmun and Associates in Baltimore, his family said. He later designed advertising campaigns for the Maryland Lottery and other accounts at Eisner and Associates. A co-worker there once told Mr. Riggin’s son: “The only way your father is ever going to wear out his shoes is from the inside.”
Mr. Riggin retired in 1992 from Martin Marietta in Middle River, where he had drawn a variety of the military supplier’s products, including space shuttles, aircraft and missile-launching systems. (The Bethesda-based company later merged with the Lockheed Corp. to become the Lockheed Martin Corp.)
A child of the Great Depression, Mr. Riggin was frugal and often took on contract work at home to make sure he could provide for his family’s needs, said his second son, Rob Riggin, 48, of Rochester Hills, Mich.
Rob Riggin recalled seeing his father, more than once, asleep in his basement studio, with a small black-and-white television droning in the background.
“I’m not sleeping,” his father would say. “I’m resting my eyes.”
Brint Cooper, 78, a longtime family friend in Bel Air, remembered Mr. Riggin’s homemade Christmas cards — “serious works of art,” Mr. Cooper called them — and the three-foot-by-four-foot felt Advent banners he made for Bel Air United Methodist Church.
Mr. Riggin was a dear friend with old-fashioned sensibilities, who appreciated simple pleasures and traditions, said Mr. Cooper, an engineering professor at the Johns Hopkins University.
“Having dinner together was a joy to them,” he said, referring to the Riggin family.
While Mrs. Riggin died in 2009, and Mr. Riggin moved to Severna Park the following year, Mr. Cooper said the two families’ children remain close.
After his retirement, Mr. Riggin and his wife traveled to England, Scotland and Rome, among other destinations, Rob Riggin said. He took up photography in earnest, twice winning Baltimore Sun photography contests for his black-and-white snapshots of Rehoboth Beach, Del., and a pair of cross-country skiers in the snow.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Dec. 28 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church, 1070 Cecil Ave., in Millersville, followed by a reception. He will be buried at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.
In addition to his sons, Mr. Riggin is survived by five grandchildren.
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