Ernest Leon Briggs, a Portsmouth native, born July 23, 1927, passed away on February 22, 2019 in Newport, RI at the age of 91.
Born to Mervin and Marguerite (Holman) Briggs, the youngest of four children. Barbara, Barclay, Fredrick, and Ernest were raised on the family farm, Fairholm Dairy.
After a brief stint in the Army he returned to Portsmouth to help his father and brothers operate the farm. Ernest married Elizabeth Ruth Garforth on March 26, 1951. As Ernest and Elizabeth settled down to start their own family, Ernest’s main responsibility was the management and operation of the Fairholm Dairy chapter of the Eastern States Farmers Exchange (a small North East/New England farmers’ cooperative).
After a long career as a dairyman, Ernest felt it best to move his wife and 4 children to Middletown in the summer of 1970. He would manage the farm/gardening operations on the estate, Bridge House, owned by Lydia Foote and her son Greg Strauss. While at the estate for 12 years, Ernest helped develop the business Aquidneck Turf. Although still working on the estate, he kept a small farming endeavor in Portsmouth at Prospect Farm. With the help of his three sons they grew beef cattle and operated a pick your own strawberry patch.
Ernest left the estate in 1982, moving back to Portsmouth and Prospect Farm. In 1984, he and his two youngest sons became the eventual owners and operators of Aquidneck Turf. Ernest retired from day to day operation in the mid 90’s.
Throughout his life Ernest was involved with activities outside of the farming community as well. As a young man Ernest loved sailing and pleasure boating which led to his involvement with the Newport Power Squadron. Through his farming life, he was involved on the state level with the Dept. Of Agriculture which eventually led to him being the RI Representative for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was a past president of the New England Sod Producers Assoc.
Ernest’s younger years revolved around the church as did his later life. He had several leadership roles at both the Middletown and Portsmouth Evangelical Friends Churches. Late in life, he was the most content and overjoyed to sing songs, especially hymns with his close friend Pastor James Brantingham.
Ernest is survived by his four children and their spouses: Deborah and Dennis Gustafson, Stuart and Maureen Briggs, Benjamin and Cynthia Briggs, and Byron and Karen Briggs. He is also survived by his ten grandchildren: Paul, Nicholas and Rebecca Briggs; David Gustafson and Denae Vetterick; Caitlin Santos and Tyler Briggs; and Noelle, Thomas and Alexander Briggs, as well as eight great-grandchildren.
Calling hours will be held on Friday, March 1, 2019 from 4-7 pm in Connors Funeral Home, 55 West Main Road, Portsmouth.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at 11 am at the Evangelical Friends Church, 70 Bliss Mine Road, Middletown. Burial will follow at St. Mary’s Episcopal churchyard, 324 East Main Road, Portsmouth.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, PO Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011 or you can call 1-800-272-3900.
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