Cliff Rigsbee was appointed to the Honolulu Fire Department on July 3, 1995. One of his many assignments included the HFD’s Training and Research Bureau, where he managed and coordinated various medical programs. He was one of the first instructors for the HFD’s automated external defibrillator program and trained all 1,100 firefighters. His time at the training bureau, as well as his many assignments, allowed him to mentor and train many fellow firefighters. Fire Chief Neves said, “He was so knowledgeable. His legacy will carry on for many years because of all the folks he mentored throughout the department and the skills and knowledge he bestowed upon all of us.” In 2004, Rigsbee was promoted to FFIII and was last stationed at the Waikiki Station.
He wasn’t just a firefighter. He was also a talented triathlete. Rigsbee won six age group wins at the Ironman World Championship. He was also a USA Triathlon Masters champion, was first overall at the Wildflower Long Course, won the Tinman Triathlon twice, and finished fifth at the 1998 Ultraman World Championship in Hawaii.
In Kona in 1992, Cliff finished 26th overall and won the 35-39 age group in a personal record time of 9:01:34 that gave him hope of being the first man over 40 to break the 9-hour time frame in Kona. His first attempt came the following year when he both won his age group and finished 67th overall in 9:10:47. In 1994, he improved both his rank and time to 34th overall at 9:10:22. Throughout his racing, Cliff loved to coach and train others in the sport he loved. He was a co-founder in a triathlon clinic where he trained anyone who wanted to learn to be a better swimmer or finish an Ironman. He loved his triathlon family and touched hundreds of lives through training and coaching. He was even the best man for a couple he met from one such clinic.
Rigsbee continued to find endurance races to feed his appetite for adventure. He was always up for races all over the world where he could challenge himself, his friends, and be a part of the racing community. The Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa and the Leadville 100 (both mountain bike and trail run within a week) were just a couple events in which he participated.
On June 14, 2016, while participating in a rescue watercraft training in waters off Diamond Head, Rigsbee suffered injuries to which he subsequently succumbed two days later. He passed away surrounded by his family and friends, many of whom were a part of his firefighter and triathlon families.
Submitted by his life partner
Clifford Meredith Rigsbee was born January 9 1953. He grew up in a military family which fostered a curiosity for new experiences and a commitment to community service. He was an accomplished athlete whose passion for triathlon led him to Hawaii in 1988. His love for the Hawaiian lifestyle and his job at the Honolulu Fire Department kept him there until his death on June 16 2016. He was a beloved member of the firehouse, known for his gregarious, easy going yet humble demeanor.
Cliff was a natural born leader whose kindness and generosity was legendary. He coached and mentored thousands of athletes, firefighters and friends. His willingness to share his knowledge and experience inspired people to achieve goals they thought were impossible. His smile and charisma lit up a room and he was a passionate and expressive story teller. His laugh was infectious. Although he was a famous world class athlete his humility is remembered by everyone who met him.
Cliff loved playing and watching golf and had his dedicated chair at the fire station in front of the TV. He loved cooking. His firehouse meals were meticulously prepared and worthy of a five star restaurant. He and his partner Jenni were members of a culinary club which inspired them to create new recipes and cocktails to share with friends. They loved hosting theme parties where Cliff took the lead on creating elaborate props and costumes.
Cliff was a proud father who relished spending time with his son Cliff and his daughter Amy. He was an avid spectator whenever Amy was competing in triathlons. He was the oldest of four boys and they enjoyed waterskiing and power boating during family vacations at the Rigsbee cottages at Carp Lake in Michigan.
When off duty he loved reading, biking, hiking with friends or playing in the waves on his canoe. His love of adventure led him all over the world. Cliff and Jenni traveled often to New Zealand where they enjoyed hiking and cycling adventures with her Kiwi family and friends. He was a loyal and devoted companion to her.
Cliff loved being in, on and around the water. His friends and family honored his legacy by donating a drinking fountain in his memory at the Operation Red Wings Medal of Honor Park (Triangle Park) in Honolulu. The fountain was dedicated to Cliff on July 22 2017.
Cliff was a loving father, brother, son and life partner. He is survived by his father Clifford Marshall Rigsbee, son Clifford Mac Rigsbee, daughter Amy Krakauer, brothers Chuck, Clark and Carter and life partner Jenni Cooney. His vast network of friends and family miss him greatly and continue to be inspired by him in countless ways.