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Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Friday, March 9, 2001

Rigg’s legacy
measured in Waves

THE volleyball net has been lowered to half staff for over a month now. At least in the mind and heart of Marv Dunphy.

When the Pepperdine coach comes into the Stan Sheriff Center tonight for the Waves' match against the University of Hawaii, Dunphy will look behind his bench and see an empty chair.

And he will smile. Because, in his mind, Dunphy will see Lei Rigg and hear her laugh.

Rigg, who passed away from cancer on Jan. 24, sent all four of her sons to Pepperdine to play for Dunphy. All four came back home to Hawaii with championship rings: Scott and Mark in 1978, Matt and Doug in 1985 and '86.

"When she and Hank sent their boys to Pepperdine, they told me, 'Hey, we've raised them, we've loved them, but they're a little bit out of control, so do whatever you need to do,' " said Dunphy. "They all have so much life in them. I can't think of any other kids who have so much heart. We know where that came from.

"It's going to be emotional (tonight) when I see Hank and the boys. It's interesting that a parent would touch me that much. When I last talked to her on the telephone, she was the stronger one in the conversation. I was crying, but I told her these were tears of love. I'm not that open of a person, but I felt I had to share that with her.''

Dunphy will tell you that the Rigg legacy is not in the four banners that hang in Firestone Fieldhouse.

"Whatever heart, whatever character there is in our program, I got it from Lei and passed it on as if it were mine,'' Dunphy said. "I learned a lot from her. I've never been around anyone as loyal. I'll be forever grateful that what I saw in her I was able to pass on.

"The guys on our teams in the 1970s and '80s know she is the spirit of Pepperdine volleyball. The Waves who came in contact with her all loved her.''

And so it was on Feb. 1 when Lei's ashes were scattered after an emotional and tearful memorial service at Outrigger Canoe Club. So many people whose lives she had touched came to say they loved her, too.

IT'S taken me over a month to find the time ... no, to find the right words ... to write about that morning.

It was a perfect day, like so many the Rigg family had spent together at the club. And where Lei Knapp grew up surfing and paddling before she married Hank Rigg in 1955.

Tears fell during the service as softly and gently as the waves that lapped against the canoes on the beach.

Her granddaughters spoke of Lei's fluffy hair and chocolate chip cookies. Her sons spoke of her being their first love.

"I can't express what it's like to be one of her children,'' said son Matt. "You're treated like a jewel.''

It was an honor to be out among the flotilla of canoes that paddled out beyond the reef to the surf spot called "Old Man's.'' It was heartbreakingly sweet to see the grandchildren take a swim with "Grandma Lei'' one last time after her ashes were dropped in the water.

Oh, to be so loved. One can only hope to be as fondly remembered and as dearly missed.

After leaving the beach that day, I left my paddle somewhere in Kapiolani Park. I hope that whoever found it will have memories as good as when I last used it.

Cindy Luis is Star-Bulletin sports editor.
Her column appears periodically.
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