BRIGGS, Thomas Lee
Artist, Cowboy and Musician
Thomas Lee Briggs, 72, a beloved member of his Cerrillos, NM, community, passed away peacefully on July 30, 2022, in Santa Fe, NM. He was a teacher, storyteller, cowboy, snake wrangler, world traveler, political junkie, and family man.
Tom was born September 28, 1949, in Dayton, Ohio, to Forrest and Avanell (Colley) Briggs. While attending Fairview High School and Wright State University, Tom organized a well-received blues band that his dad squired around Dayton. He went on to play professionally in the midwest at many college campuses and clubs and later in Vermont and New Mexico.
A talented drummer, Tom accompanied many famous musicians like The Ohio Players, Robert Cray and Bobby Keys. Over the decades he was a member of the Gregorian Knoll, Juke Joint, The Motor Kings, The Attitudes, and the String Pilots. A memorable music jam held in Madrid, NM, this summer was a highlight and we are grateful for the local musicians who came out to play with him.
His appreciation for nature and the outdoors was born from childhood summers spent at Morrison Lake in Coldwater, Michigan, with other families from Standard Register, his father's employer. A love of outdoor education led him to live, work and volunteer at several camps and nature centers in Ohio, Montana and Vermont. A memorable year was spent at Shining Mountain Ranch in Montana where guiding and wrangling inspired a lifelong passion for wild animals and horses. His most fulfilling work was working with challenged children and adults for whom he felt great affection and respect.
Tom's natural artistic talent came early and a favorite job was working in the merchandizing department of Rike's Department store in Dayton. He and a team of 30 decorated the store year round, hand making all the Christmas decorations for the window displays.
A constant, since his late teens, was his deep admiration for and relationship with the Lakota people and their culture, formed during frequent visits with his Hunka family on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Tom curated and repaired pieces for the Plains Indian collection at Dayton's Museum of Natural History, carefully studying the construction of garments and objects. He was also fascinated with the Indian Mounds of Ohio, built by the Adena and Hopewell Tribes.
He taught Plains Indian material culture to children and adults in Vermont, Arizona and New Mexico. His recent trip to Rapid City, Custer and Pine Ridge was a profound reconnection with its land and people, opening the journey for him to let go of his earthly body. His intricate beadwork and brain tanned hides live on in his creations displayed by many collectors.
Tom met his wife Barbara at one of his beading classes in Vermont. They were engaged in a tipi on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and married the following year on a wintery day in Vermont, and moved full time to New Mexico in 1998. They built their dream home and community of dear friends in Cerrillos. From there, they enjoyed trips around the wild west in their RV campers and adventures farther afield to Asia, Europe, South America and the wilds of Africa, which held a special place in his heart. At home, Tom could be found greeting locals at the family store, Cerrillos Station, lingering for hours over a long chat on his favorite bench.
A true animal whisperer, he was as comfortable on horseback as he was relocating rattlesnakes from the neighbors' houses. His wife lovingly tolerated his collecting of dogs, goats, horses, burros and potbellied pigs.
Tom will be ever loved by his wife of 25 years, Barbara, sons Chris Briggs and Andy Briggs Schaffnit, brother Bob (Diane), step-daughter Bizia (Clinton), grandchildren Ellsworth and Claiborne, nieces, nephews and many dear relatives.
Family and friends are invited to a Celebration of Life at Cox Arboretum, Dayton, OH, on Wednesday, August 17 at 3:00PM and in Santa Fe (TBA) on Tuesday, August 30 at 3:00PM. An RSVP is necessary to prepare. Please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive details and Zoom links.
Tom wished to return to his home state of "Ahia" and a private interment will be held at Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery.
The family extends their heartfelt gratitude to the compassionate hospice staff at Ambercare and Scott's House, Madrid and Cerrillos Volunteer Fire Departments, Mountain State EMS, Lorenzo Bello for his companionship and countless more.
If you feel called to, donations will be warmly welcomed by Scott's House Hospice (https://scottshouse.org) in Santa Fe or an animal charity of your choosing, in lieu of flowers.