Club member Ginger Buchanan presented a $1,000 check to library director Andrew Hunt. Debbie Riggs, Benjamin’s sister, was present for the donation.
Benjamin died on May 27 of this year. Doug Pirkle, club secretary and treasurer, said members wanted to commemorate the years of work Benjamin did within the community.
Debbie said her brother loved being a part of the Cleveland and Bradley County community.
“He volunteered for over 40 years with Fire and Rescue,” Debbie said. “… Anytime there was something going on, he was there with a camera or as part of the rescue.”
Benji Riggs had a love for both photography and serving others. Even before he could walk, he showed a fascination with cameras of all makes and models.
One home video clearly captures his initial interest.
“I was looking through one years ago,” Debbie said. “I don’t even think he could walk yet. He had picked up mama’s camera case and they were playing tug-a-war.”
Benji picked up photography as a hobby in elementary school. From there he continued to improve his skills. Later, he began shooting photos as part of his volunteer service with Bradley County Fire-Rescue.
Debbie said her brother never took a photo of a victim. His photos often depicted a car wreck or fire response. These photos were then used later by the rescue teams as part of training.
Everyone was shocked to hear of his sudden passing.
“They announced it that morning at the Memorial Day services,” Debbie recalled. “[A man] said, ‘If you look around you will see someone here missing. Benji Riggs is usually here with his camera.’”
She said several people reported a collective, audible gasp as the gathered crowd realized what the speaker meant.
Since then members of the community have ensured that Debbie realizes how much everyone appreciated her brother.
“I knew the community loved Benji, but until his passing, I didn’t know how much,” Debbie said about the verbal comments and Facebook messages.
She was once again shocked when the club informed her of their intentions to honor her late brother.
“I thought, ‘Wow,’” Debbie said. “It was totally mind boggling.”
The donation will be used to buy books and microfilm resources for the History Branch collection. Debbie will also be sharing some of Benji’s pictures with the library. She said she has already found some really good photos of the Christmas parade in the early 1970s. The images capture both the parade and how downtown Cleveland looked 40 years ago.
A special thanks was given to the club.
“I really appreciate the Harry. S. Truman club making a donation to the library so history can be preserved,” Debbie said. “We both enjoyed history.”