‘Spirit of Becky’ lives on

Lee Muckey, WHRC outgoing president (fourth from left) with Becky Briggs Scholarship recipients (from left) Celie Ma of Tucker H.S.; Taylor Ricks of Glen Allen H.S.; Abigail Donelson of Freeman H.S.; Jacob Stern, of Hermitage H.S.; and Jonathon Lawton of Hermitage H.S. Not pictured is Abby Heppert of Hermitage H.S.
Howard W. “Bud” Minor, Jr. had just assumed the presidency of the Western Henrico Rotary Club in 1990 when he got the call one July evening from fellow Rotarian Cordell Briggs.

Seventeen-year-old Becky Briggs, Cordell's daughter, had been killed in an auto accident that afternoon on Interstate 95 near Emporia.

At Briggs' request, Minor went to identify the body. His long-time friend said he just was not up to the task.

"I did what he asked," Minor recalls today. "Something I will never forget!"

But even though he spent much of the rest of the week with the Briggs family, and was a pallbearer at the funeral, he wanted to do more. Like the rest of the Rotarians, he was especially fond of Becky, who had been a frequent presence at Rotary meetings and events.

"She was always smiling and very polite to adults," Minor said. "Even at the age of 17, she would come to Rotary when we were raising money for charities and would pitch in and help us with projects.”

Following the funeral, he and other family friends ended up back at the Briggs' house discussing ways to honor Becky. Eventually, Minor and Richard Sharp, a fellow pallbearer, developed a plan to award scholarships to high school seniors through the Rotary club.

Sharp, who was then president of Circuit City, suggested the Rotary team up with the Community Foundation of Greater Richmond – and donated $25,000 to kick the fund off. The club added approximately $10,000 to start the endowment, and the Briggs family contributed additional funds.

"In 1993, we gave our first scholarship of $1,000," Minor said at a recent Rotary meeting honoring this year's recipients.

With the help of fundraisers such as WHRC's annual Becky Briggs golf tournament, said Minor, the scholarship program has expanded since then to benefit multiple recipients in the amount of $2,500 each.

"To date," he announced at the club's May 23 meeting, "we have given 88 scholarships in the amount of $149,200." (The 2016 awards boost the totals to 93 recipients and more than $164,000.)

Becky Briggs

‘A natural leader’
Although it's been 26 years since Becky died, Cordell Briggs still cannot attend the Rotary meeting at which the scholarships are awarded.

And he still cannot speak of the July day when he got the news without getting emotional.

Becky Briggs was a 17-year-old rising senior at Marymount, and she and her boyfriend, Brad, were driving from Wrightsville Beach, N.C., headed to a Jimmy Buffet concert. As the Briggs family was told later by an accident reconstruction team, Becky’s boyfriend apparently lost control of the car, crossed the median strip, and hit another car head-on.

"It was a typical Sunday afternoon," Briggs remembers of getting the shattering news a few hours later. "We were washing the car. A highway patrolman came to our house and he asked, 'Are you the father of Rebecca Briggs?'

"And then it all started."

When he talks of Becky, it is with difficulty – but there is pride mixed in with the sadness. What he remembers most about his daughter, he says, is her love of people and compassion for others.

"People were attracted to her because of her friendliness," Briggs says. "She cared about people, her friends, and relationships. She was a connector – a peacemaker. She wanted people to be happy; she always wanted everyone to get along with each other."

In Becky's junior year of high school, Briggs recalls taking her to school one day when she was crying because of a spat between some of her friends.

"They're not getting along!" she told her somewhat perplexed father through tears, as if she had failed in her role of keeping everyone happy.

Becky also enjoyed organizing events like the prom, Briggs says, "and at Christmas, she always ran the show."

Becky's brother Cab agreed that Becky was in her element during the holidays.

"She was a festive person – very outgoing and animated," Cab said, recalling that she also loved to surprise people with gifts. "She'd drag me out at two in the morning to put a love note or a mix tape on Brad's car."

Cab Briggs adds that while his sister was "not a fantastic student," she was gifted when it came to mediating and connecting people.

"She was a natural leader," he said. "She didn't even have to try at it."

‘This never goes away’
Because relationships and giving were at the core of Becky's life and spirit, the Briggs family has made a point of emphasizing service and community involvement among qualifications for the scholarship program, rather than simply academic achievement.

"It's wide open to anyone – not just a brain," said Cab Briggs.

In the spirit of Becky, the scholarship application notes that students must demonstrate not only a commitment to academics but also to extracurricular activities and community service. Students also should demonstrate "a commitment to fellow classmates."

While Becky Briggs Scholarship recipients tend to be strong students anyway, "we don't target [the scholarship] for the geniuses of the world," Cordell Briggs said.

In addition to shining academically, in fact, this year's recipients have volunteered for the SpeakUp 5K, Feedmore and Henrico Police Athletic League. They aspire to careers in global health, teaching, and pediatric oncology.

The other principle that family and friends of the Briggs' have emphasized in setting up the scholarship is that it must be permanent.

From the outset, in Bud Minor's letter to The Community Foundation, it was agreed that only the interest earned on the endowment would be applied to the scholarship fund.

"Permanent is a big word," said Cordell Briggs, taking obvious comfort in the fact that long after he and his wife, Ginny, are gone, Becky's memory and spirit will continue with the scholarships.

"The whole thing was set up so this never goes away," he said of the memorial. "The Rotary can go away, the golf tournament can go away – and it will keep going."
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Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27

The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair

Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

Henrico Police to participate in ‘Tip a Cop’ Oct. 21

Henrico County Police Division and the Virginia Division of Capitol Police are participating in “Tip-A-Cop” to Support the Special Olympics Saturday, Oct. 21.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. that day at Red Robin, 11784 West Broad Street, members of the two agencies will be working for tips as a donation to the Special Olympics. > Read more.

Participants sought for ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s’

The Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, Nov. 4, at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook, and the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Richmond is seeking participants.

The event, one of three walks the association will hold in its service area this year (the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck walk was held Oct. 7 and the Fredericksburg walk Oct. 14) raises money to help the association fight the disease, which affects more than 26,000 people in the metro Richmond region. > Read more.

Fairfield meeting Oct. 25 to focus on cybersecurity

Henrico County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman and Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton will hold a constituent meeting Wednesday, Oct. 25 to discuss cybersecurity.

Thornton also has invited candidates who will be seeking election to local offices on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to introduce themselves. > Read more.

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October 2017

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Henrico County, in partnership with GRTC, is conducting a series of three Public Meetings to present recommended changes to transit service in Henrico County and to seek input from the public. Portions of Henrico County’s GRTC service will need to be adjusted to better connect with the upcoming Pulse BRT service and planned changes in the City of Richmond’s transit network. Meetings will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations: Oct. 5 – Libbie Mill Library; Oct. 16 – Eastern Henrico Recreation Center; and Nov. 2 – Tuckahoe Library. All three meetings will be identical in content. Prior to the meeting, you can view the Choices Report for more information about the content of the meetings. Full text

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