Saratoga County

Saratoga businessman, philanthropist Ron Riggi dies at 80

Brothers Vince (left) and Ron Riggi attend the 30th National Museum of Dance Pearl Gala on Saturday evening, August 12, 2017. The gala honoring the Museum Founders Marylou Whitney and Lewis Swyer.
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Brothers Vince (left) and Ron Riggi attend the 30th National Museum of Dance Pearl Gala on Saturday evening, August 12, 2017. The gala honoring the Museum Founders Marylou Whitney and Lewis Swyer.

SARATOGA SPRINGS Ron Riggi made a mark in the business world with his brother Vincent as co-founder of Turbine Services LTD and later made a difference in his community as a philanthropist with his wife, Michele.

The Schenectady native died Sunday at age 80, surrounded by family at his Saratoga Springs home. Services will be Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Riggi was directly involved with or financially supported numerous organizations, including the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Regional YMCA, National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Hospital, Double H Ranch, National Museum of Racing and Saratoga Automobile Museum.

Ron and Michele Riggi were also noted for their palatial home on North Broadway, sometimes known as the most expensive in a city full of expensive homes. They shared it with dozens of pets, particularly toy-sized dogs.

Riggi grew up in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood and attended Draper High School, according to his obituary.

He attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and served aboard a cargo ship ferrying supplies and munitions to the U.S. military in Vietnam.

In 1967, he joined his brother Vincent in working for General Electric. The two left to start Turbine Services in 1972 in Burnt Hills, and later moved it to Wilton.

In 1977, he and the former Michele Fusco married. They had four children together and later, five grandchildren. A sixth grandchild is on the way.

Riggi’s obituary described him as a bulldog with a tough exterior, particularly in his business operations, but noted his compassion as well. Others had the same memory of him.

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said Monday he recalls Riggi’s commitment to veterans, particularly those who had become homeless after they left the military.

Over lunch one day, Shimkus got the sense it grew from Riggi’s time in Vietnam.

“I’ll never forget the passion I saw on his face or that I heard in his voice as he spoke about how vital it was that we help those who served and sacrificed so much,” Shimkus said.

Duane Vaughn, CEO of Shelters of Saratoga, said his organization was one of those that gained help as a result.

“The Riggi family as a whole and through their business have been very philanthropic to Shelters of Saratoga over the years,” he said. “They have supported us and many other organizations in the community. The impact has been significant.”

Riggi gave freely of his talent and energy to SPAC, one of the most prominent institutions in Saratoga Springs, said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of the performing arts center.

“Ron Riggi was not only a remarkable, enthusiastic and dedicated member of our board, he was also an incredible supporter of the arts and an asset to our entire community,” she said via email. “Ron began his tenure as the chairman of the board when I took the helm of SPAC in 2016 and he proved to be an invaluable resource — and friend — as I transitioned into my new role. His presence, generosity of spirit and leadership will be sorely missed.”

A celebration of Ronald Anthony Riggi’s life will be held Wednesday at the William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 N. Broadway. Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m.

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