When friends and family think about Janice Riggs Vallin, they see a woman who epitomized the famous phrase “work hard, play hard.”
Mrs. Riggs Vallin, the fun-loving, hard-charging executive director of advertising at The Seattle Times, died Monday (Dec. 23) after fighting liver cancer. She was 47.
Although her life ended prematurely, those who knew Mrs. Riggs Vallin said she lived it wholly, fulfilling her dream of traveling several times around Europe and earning her dream job as the advertising executive at a major newspaper.
“She was a phenomenal woman,” said her boss, Alan Fisco, the executive vice president of revenue and new products. “She was one of those people who you had one conversation with, and you felt like you had known her for years.”
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Mrs. Riggs Vallin was born Aug. 16, 1966, in Augusta, Ga., to homemaker Jacqueline Harder Riggs and ExxonMobil marketing executive Joel Dean Riggs.
Marketing ran in the family, said 40-year-old sister Jessica Riggs Warren.
“We both excelled at meeting people, connecting people together and making advertisers happy,” said Riggs Warren, who followed her older sister into the newspaper-advertising business. “That was our life’s work.”
The sisters lived by two lessons handed down by their father: “Plan to work and work your plan,” and “Keep it neat, make it big, paint it red.”
Mrs. Riggs Vallin graduated in 1988 from Texas A&M University, where she worked at the student newspaper.
She then started a tour of Texas newspapers, working on the advertising side at the Bryan-College Station Eagle in Bryan, Texas, and then at the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman.
Mrs. Riggs Vallin loved to travel — especially to the beach, “with her toes in the sand and a drink in her hand,” her family wrote on an online obituary website.
She also adored dancing to jazz, enjoying nature and hosting parties.
Mrs. Riggs Vallin met her future husband, Armando Vallin Jr., through mutual friends in Austin. The couple married in 2009.
The newlyweds moved the next year to Seattle, where Mrs. Riggs Vallin served as director of major national accounts at Sound Publishing.
She joined The Seattle Times in 2011 and became executive director of advertising earlier this year.
Since then, Fisco said, the newspaper has “instituted more changes than in a number of years,” including adopting new incentive and performance-management systems and creating a new revenue-management team.
Fisco described Mrs. Riggs Vallin as a mentor to co-workers, both professionally and personally.
He recalled a time that she brought in someone from Brooks Brothers to talk to employees about how to dress.
“As part of it, they did makeovers for four or five people, and Janice insisted that I would be one of them. I was never quite sure why,” Fisco said. “But when she said, ‘I want you to do this,’ you do it.”
Jessica Riggs Warren said she has received hundreds of messages from people who consider her sister a mentor.
“I don’t think she realized how many people she helped get to the place they are — including me,” Riggs Warren said.
In addition to her sister and husband, Mrs. Riggs Vallin is survived by her brother-in-law Lee Warren and nephews James and William Warren, all of Kingwood, Texas.
A memorial service will be held on the beach near a family home in Surfside, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to help the American Cancer Society study liver cancer.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal