When Louis DeRiggi met his wife Jean for the very first time, he asked her to dance.
“He was wonderful. He had this incredible talent for ballroom dancing and he approached me so quietly with this kind smile,” Jean DeRiggi said, detailing how she met Lou a little more than 25 years ago at a social club. Both widowed, the couple attended the gathering with friends, never intending to find a second chance at love. But they soon began dating and eventually married.
“He was such a gentleman,” Jean DeRiggi continued. “So kind, generous and loving. My family became his. He did not have children of his own but he welcomed mine into his heart and was so happy and proud to play the role of grandfather and great-grandfather. We were so extremely close. I miss him so much.”
DeRiggi died April 21 from complications of COVID-19, his family said. The Manorville resident was 77.
Born May 12, 1942, DeRiggi was raised in Queens. He drove a cab in Manhattan for 20 years before earning a bachelor’s degree in communications from Hofstra University. He then worked as a clerk with the IRS in Holtsville.
The couple lived in Copiague for a time before settling in the Silver Ponds Community at Manorville, where DeRiggi competed in many billiards matches. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago, his wife said the condition limited his activity but did not stop DeRiggi from doing the things he loved.
“He never let the Parkinson’s stop him,” Jean DeRiggi said. “We still danced and traveled. He always tried to live life to its fullest.”
After being admitted to a rehab facility in late March because of Parkinson’s complications, his wife said DeRiggi returned home in April for a short time before being hospitalized with a lung infection.
“I am grateful for those 48 hours I had with him when he returned home,” Jean DeRiggi said. “I never imagined it would be the last time we would be together.”
Married just shy of 25 years, the couple was still deciding how to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary at the time of DeRiggi’s death.
“We had a great party for our 10th wedding anniversary,” Jean DeRiggi said. “Lou arranged a ceremony with the same priest and we renewed our vows on the same date at the same hour. He was very sentimental and very sweet.”
In addition to his wife, Jean, DeRiggi is survived by his children, John Skinder of Aquebogue, Joyce Murr of Pennsylvania and Barbara Skinder of Calverton; three grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.
“The children were the apple of his eye,” Jean said. “He was so proud of each and every one of them.”
Arrangements were handled by Moloney-Sinnicksons Funeral Home in Moriches. The family hopes to host a mass or memorial service in the fall or on the anniversary of his death.