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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Doris Nielsen Rigas, 87, Of Coudersport, PA

Doris Nielsen Rigas
Doris Nielsen Rigas died on December 10, 2014 at Cole Memorial Hospital in Coudersport, Pennsylvania following a lengthy illness.

Doris Rigas was born on February 25, 1927, the fifth of nine children, in Penn Yan, New York, in humble circumstances. Her parents were Danish immigrants, her father, Christian, a tombstone engraver, her mother, Charlotte, a housekeeper.

Doris attended the Penn Yan school system, where she graduated in 1945. She was a bright and conscientious student, finishing second in her class and achieving recognition for her excellent performances in plays.

Extremely hard-working her entire life, Doris was determined to be the first in her family to attend college. She paid for her education at Albany State Teacher's College (now the University of Albany) by baby-sitting, waiting on table, picking blueberries, and cleaning homes. Graduating in 1949 with honors in English, Doris carried with her a lifelong belief in the importance of education, which she imparted to her children and grandchildren.

After graduating from Albany State, Doris accepted a teaching position at Wellsville Jr.-Sr. High School, teaching English in the seventh and tenth grades. She was widely respected by her students and colleagues for her enthusiasm, diligence, and caring attitude. She helped produce school plays and advised the junior high cheerleaders. She was also active in the Nancy Howe Players, a community theater group, and played several prominent roles in its productions.

While at Albany State, Doris met John Rigas on a blind date arranged by one of John's fraternity brothers. After dating a few times at school, they renewed their relationship in Wellsville, John's hometown, and on February 1, 1953, they were married at St. John's Episcopal Church in Wellsville in a Greek Orthodox ceremony. Soon after, they moved to Coudersport, Pennsylvania, where they raised their four children and operated their business enterprises. They were married for nearly sixty-two years.

While Doris preferred to remain in the background, she nevertheless played important roles in the family's business ventures. Shortly after marrying, she worked at the Coudersport Theatre selling tickets and candy. As the member of a select group---the wife of a cable television pioneer---she participated in many cable industry events over the years. Although shy by nature, she had a vibrant personality, a beautiful smile, and a robust sense of humor, which made her very popular with fellow cable operators and their families.

In later years, Doris found a niche in helping to design, decorate, and supervise the construction of company buildings. Lacking formal training in architecture or design—but ever the perfectionist—she possessed a keen eye for detail, an innate aesthetic sensibility, and a deep appreciation for superior craftsmanship. She had a large hand in creating many of the most attractive new and restored buildings in Coudersport—including the old public school on Main Street, the old Rexall Drug Store on the corner of Main and Second Streets, and the old Silk Mill on North Main Street—as well as numerous other buildings throughout the country. Doris, along with her husband, also owned and operated Eleni Interiors in Olean, New York.

Doris’s overriding love was her family. She devoted her life to her husband, her children, and her grandchildren. She spared no effort or measure of creativity to ensure that each of her children enjoyed a secure, comfortable, and special childhood. Coupling prodigious energy and stamina with high standards, she was often the force behind the family's accomplishments. It was her determined spirit aligned with that of her husband that shaped the family’s foundation. Her work behind the scenes at home took large burdens off John and the children, enabling them to pursue their own ambitions and projects. In a crisis you could unfailingly depend on Doris to be brave and strong. Her love for the family was unconditional and profound, in good times and bad.

Doris’s devotion to academic excellence led her to take a special interest in her children's education, and she spent countless hours supplementing what they learned in school. Her children's academic achievements—each attended an Ivy League college—were the source of tremendous pride throughout her life.

Doris engaged in a number of hobbies and activities. She worked on March of Dime campaigns, taught Sunday school at Christ Episcopal Church, and participated in the ECW at the Church. A lifetime resident of small towns, she was fortunate to have traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, both with her family and with members of the cable television industry. She liked to cook and bake, often for her neighbors and friends, and to can a variety of fruits and vegetables. Her baked goods—especially her pecan pies---earned a reputation far and wide. She also loved to decorate for Christmas and other holidays, just one example being the extraordinary effort she put into adorning the Coudersport Consistory for the Adelphia Christmas concerts. Doris was an avid reader of novels and loved films of all sorts. Due to the influence of her husband and children, she became an enthusiastic sports fan, adopting their teams---especially St. Bonaventure basketball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Buffalo Sabres---as her own. In later years, her grandchildren's sporting events became a passion, and in fair weather or foul, even as her health declined, she could be counted on to be there.

Doris is survived by her husband John; three sons, Michael, Timothy, and James, all of Coudersport; one daughter, Ellen, of New York, New York; a daughter-in-law, Mary Ann (James) Rigas of Coudersport; a son-in-law Peter (Ellen) Venetis of New York; two siblings, Jean Nielsen Daiker and John Nielsen, both of Rochester, New York; and six grandchildren, Christopher Rigas, John Michael Rigas, Andrew Rigas, and David Rigas, all of Coudersport, Elias Venetis of New York, New York, and Hallie Rigas of Odin, Pennsylvania: and many nieces and nephews.

Doris was predeceased by six siblings, Helen Nielsen Fox of Penn Yan, New York, Fred Nielsen of Penn Yan, Anna Nielsen Porter of Syracuse, New York, Karen Nielsen Cleveland of Rochester, New York, Bob Nielsen of Penn Yan, and Herman Nielsen of Poplar Ridge, New York.

There will be a private funeral service for family members. At a date yet to be determined, there will be a memorial celebration for the public. The Rigas Family intends to honor Doris by establishing a foundation in her name. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Doris may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice. Arrangements being coordinated by the Thomas E. Fickinger Funeral Home, 210 North East Street Coudersport, PA 16915, "A Life Celebration Home". To share your fondest memories of Doris, please visit either, or John Rigas's Facebook page.


Anonymous said...

God bless and keep you, Mrs. Rigas. You were a one-of-a kind lady and Coudersport is a better place for having had you as a resident. Prayers for your family, especially your husband.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Rigas was a wonderful woman. I'm sorry she suffered. May God comfort her family during this time.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful obituary.

tooter said...

Rest in Heavenly Peace Doris...I can still see you collecting tickets at the theatre, the "good old days".

David and Cindy Johns said...

What a wonderful legacy she left! She and her family gave above and beyond. Our prayers are with John and the family. Peace and healing for all.

Sue Mitchell said...

Wishing the Rigas family peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories of Mrs. Rigas to forever hold in your hearts. I loved the train your family set up MANY years ago in the backyard of your home on Oak Street.

McElwain Hall said...

A beautiful photo of Doris. That is how I will remember her.