‘We will continue fighting’
Vince Rigby’s family to continue his battle for veterans rights
The family of a military veteran and advocate who died in a fire on Monday say they will continue fighting for veterans in Cape Breton.
Sandra Rigby, wife of Vince Rigby, said her husband fought until the very end for veterans, something the family plans to continue in the future. “He was still fighting, we were still fighting and we will continue fighting.”
Vince Rigby’s body was found by firefighters in an abandoned Robert Street building during a fire in Whitney Pier at around 9 p.m. on Monday.
Cape Breton Regional Police investigated the fire and ruled out any suspicion and foul play in the death of the Sydney man. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
Rigby, 52, was a veteran and an advocate with Marijuana for Trauma, a company that helps those with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and other medical conditions. He was the president of the Marijuana for Trauma/Veterans Helping Veterans office in Sydney.
He served in Cyprus and Bosnia to name just two postings in a 22-year career as a Canadian reservist. He had to leave the reserves in 2002 due to poor health. Rigby had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“He thought if he could get them (veterans) off their pills, and get them stable, they would be fine,” said Sandra Rigby. “Vince wanted another way to deal with his stress or to deal with his PTSD instead of just medication. He just wanted to help other veterans.”
Sandra Rigby said, from her understanding, her husband saw smoke coming from the vacant building and went in to see if anyone was inside.
“The power was on in the building too, and some nights when I drove by, the rooms had different lights on, so there was definitely someone in that house,” she said. “The outside light was on, there was footprints — the guys who called 911 said there were footprints there and around the house.”
Sandra Rigby said there are a lot of rumours going around as to what happened.
“I just want people to know, there are a lot of things going around that it was suicide, but it wasn’t,” she said. “There was no indication of suicide, not even from the medical examiners office.”
Sandra Rigby and her husband were together for 31 years. The couple had one son, Jacob, who currently lives in Edmonton, working as a pipefitter in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.
Jacob Rigby said his father was loved by everyone.
“My father helped me through everything, through sports and through life,” he said. “My father helped as many people as he could, even when he was battling through his own stuff, Dad never gave up.”
Jacob Rigby said he would like to see his father receive proper respect from the military. “My father never got a medal that he should have got, so we will see what’s going to happen in the future.”
Vince Rigby was also among a group that helped get the Veterans Affairs office reopened in Sydney.
“We went all the way to Ottawa for meetings for that (Veterans Affairs office),” said Sandra Rigby. “He would not let it die — he thought the government should have showed the veterans more respect.”
Sandra Rigby said she first noticed her husband’s posttraumatic stress disorder when he returned from Bosnia.
“Vince was a fine, healthy man going over — he came back sick,” she said. “I was with Vince before he went over, and when he came back he was a totally different man, it was not Vince.”
Jacob Rigby said the family is going through a hard time right now, but they will get through it.
“We want to thank everybody for all the support and love, we couldn’t say enough,” he said.
Visitation will take place on Monday from 6-9 p.m. at Sydney Memorial Chapel, 49 Welton Street, Sydney. A mass is scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Holy Redeemer Church in Whitney Pier, followed by a celebration of life service at the Whitney Pier Legion directly after the mass.
Vince Rigby, right, is pictured with his son, Jacob, in this family photo. Vince Rigby’s body was found by firefighters in an abandoned Robert Street building during a fire in Whitney Pier on Monday.