Obituary: Wilma Hannah Briggs, 92

by | Sep 7, 2023

Played for league dramatized by ‘A League of Their Own’

Wilma Hannah Briggs, age 92, daughter of the late Frederick A. and Edythe (Hathaway) passed peacefully from this life to her eternal home Sept. 4.

Wilma Briggs as a member of the Fort Wayne Daisies.

From humble beginnings on “Broken Elm Farm,” her family’s dairy, Wilma carved out a life of achievement as few have. Soon out of high school, (where she played on the boys baseball team) she signed a contract to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the league which was the inspiration for the movie A League of Their Own. After a stellar six-year career which ended when the league shut down, “Willie” returned home and eventually went to Barrington College, received her bachelor’s degree becoming the first in her family to graduate college, and then began a 23-year career teaching elementary school where her impact on scores of students was great. 

She believed in “no child left behind” way before it became an act of Congress. She also was the Sunday school superintendent at Rocky Brook Church and taught Sunday school to every age group over the years. Add to this being the treasurer at her church for 13 years along with 2 years as treasurer for the Eastern Mass and R.I. Conference of The Advent Christian Church and you start to realize the importance her Christian faith had in her life.  

Hers was a life filled with accomplishment, evidence of what dedication to doing one’s best can produce. She was driven not by a need to self-aggrandize but to honor her family’s work ethic and even more so her Heavenly Father. Inductee to many athletic halls of fame, including: The R.I. Heritage Hall of Fame, first woman in the East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame, The International Scholar Athlete Hall of Fame, The R.I. Slow-Pitch Hall of Fame, and a special wing in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for the All-American Girls Pro League. She was also the first recipient of the Game of Legends Award for 38 years of contributions to women’s softball in R.I., and on and on.  

Subject of countless articles in newspapers, magazines and such, TV interviews, etc., she became a noted and desired speaker to teams, athletes of all ages, church groups, and people in general who needed to hear a story to inspire. Though she never had children of her own, countless children were blessed by Wilma’s love, care and patience for them. She loved her family and all the nieces and nephews in her life. In one of the last conversations this writer had with Aunt Wilma, when talking about all her accomplishments, she said, “I don’t know why God has blessed me like this over the years, I just tried to do things the best I could.” I mentioned Colossians 3:23 and 24, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working unto the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” She smiled and looked off like she was seeing something in the distance and said, “You know, I think you’re right, thank God.”  

She is survived by her sisters Iva Lussier (Paul) and Diana Dodge and many nieces and nephews. She was the sister of the late Ursula, Frederick (Allie), Robert, Richard, Jerome, Roger, Aaron, James, and Valda.

Funeral service Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 1 p.m. at the Hill Funeral Home, 822 Main St., East Greenwich. Burial will be in Glenwood Cemetery, Middle Road, East Greenwich. Visitation prior to the service will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

You can leave an online condolence at the Hill Funeral Home website HERE.

Find EG News’s 2019 profile of Wilma Briggs HERE.

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EG News Obituary Policy: We post obituaries relevant to our readers. If you would like to share an obituary, send it to [email protected]. Put “obituary” in the subject line. 

Posted 9/7/23

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September 7, 2023 5:57 pm

RIP Aunt Wilma. You paved a road in history and will never be forgotten. I will miss your stories and baseball cards.

Donna Fish
Donna Fish
September 7, 2023 9:17 pm

My husband had Wilma as a teacher in North Kingstown. He always spoke so kindly of her. (And of course we have read of her exciting baseball career!) Our thoughts are with her family.

September 8, 2023 7:20 am

Wilma was a member of both the East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame and the EGHS Wall of Honor.
Unlike many who are honored and never show up again, Wilma always came to the ceremonies honoring others until she got sick. She was an interesting and accomplished person who will live on in the annals of East Greenwich.
Rest In Peace, Wilma. See you up there when our game is done.

Amelia Mulholland Young
Amelia Mulholland Young
September 8, 2023 7:33 pm

I think I met Wilma in 1974. I remember her as always being so encouraging and thoughtful. She definitely had a positive impact on my life, and no doubt the lives of countless others. A truly inspiring human being! Rest in peace Wilma.

Donna Rice
Donna Rice
September 9, 2023 12:55 pm

I am so happy to have known Wilma. We bowled together and as always she would beat me, but
it was so much fun. A wonderful and positive person.
Deepest sympathy to her family.
Rest in Peace.
Donna Wilson Rice

September 10, 2023 6:47 pm

I’ll miss you Aunt Wilma, I’ll always cherish all the memories, from those dang wooden pencils with our names on them to the calendars, and the family reunions, but most of all, I am grateful for your tutoring me after failing the 2nd grade…love your nephew jim

Steve Russell
Steve Russell
September 11, 2023 8:38 pm

I, very unfortunately, did not have an opportunity to experience the joyful gift of meeting Amazing Aunt Wilma before she moved up in our Life League to now be playing on God’s Field of Faith,
However, from what I have recently come to learn of this very special person, she truly was in “A League of HER Own….”

In her own words:

William Briggs
William Briggs
September 24, 2023 4:11 pm

Researching former AAGPBL players I discovered Wilma Briggs, looking though my family tree I found common ancesters which would make Wilma a distant cousin. Too bad I never got a chance to meet her, she sounded like an amazing person who had an incredible life. We have common relaitives through the Briggs, Tarbox, Vaughn, and Spencer families.


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