Why We Give: The Briggs

Why We Give: The Briggs

He was a navigator on a B-24 liberator, one of the four-engine heavy bombers that helped spearhead Allied air power in Europe during World War II. From their base in Italy, his squadron attacked the oil fields in Ploies’ ti, Romania, supported the Allied invasion of Southern France a few weeks after D-Day and flew missions as far away as Poland.


But on his 27th mission, something went wrong. He was directing the lead plane, an inherently dangerous position, for an attack on the Hermann Göring Tank Works in Vienna, Austria. Antiaircraft frre knocked out two engines and the crew were forced to bail out over the Alps.


Briggs broke a shoulder on landing and was soon captured. He ended up in Stalag Luft III in what’s now Żagań, Poland. The POW camp is now famous for the Great Escape, which happened before Briggs was sent there. But as Soviet troops approached the camp, he and his fellow prisoners were sent on a 100-mile forced march. They were eventually liberated by American troops on April 28, 1945. Briggs recommends the book "Return to Sagan", by Robert E. O’Bannon, for the most accurate account of life in the camp.

Blaine Briggs was a B-24 navigator during WWII, and spent time as a POW in Poland.

Coming Home

Blaine returned to Des Moines, Iowa, and married his wife La Verne. The two bought a small-town newspaper, the St. Charles News, while he finished school at Drake University.


A few years later they started a printing company back in Des Moines. While La Verne began teaching, Blaine did everything in the shop printing, delivery, sales, even sweeping the floors. As the business evolved, they began printing medical forms for hospitals, a booming market that fueled the company’s growth.


Briggs Printing would go on to become the largest medical forms printer in the nation. They sold the company in 1968. That same year, their son Jimmy was diagnosed with leukemia. Although they traveled to the best hospitals—Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan Kettering—cancer care was simply not advanced enough at the time to handle his disease. He died in December 1968. The loss would have a major impact on Blaine and La Verne’s efforts in their communities.


After selling Briggs Printing, the couple enjoyed some travel time, including a trip to China two weeks after President Nixon’s historic visit. In 1980, they settled in North County San Diego.

We were fortunate to have a good amount of funds. And because of our upbringing, we enjoyed using them to help the communities we lived in.

Blaine and La Verne Briggs have seen their gifts support many programs, including the expansion of critical care services at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.

California

The loss of their son, and their history in the medical forms business, had given them a major interest in supporting advanced medical care. Blaine had been on the board at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, but when they moved to California, he discovered Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. Working closely with neurologist Michael Lobatz, MD, who is the former longtime medical director of the Rehabilitation Center at Scripps Encinitas, the couple began making gifts to the hospital.


Over the years, they have supported the hospital’s Healing Arts Program, the Campaign for Scripps Encinitas, driver retraining for rehab patients, the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System and the Ekso wearable robot, which helps paraplegic patients walk again. The prototypical “millionaires next door,” they were never fl ashy about their giving, but they always found a way.

La Verne and Blaine Briggs with Scripps President and CEO Chris Van Gorder.

The couple has given more than $11 million to Scripps Encinitas, a little at a time, and their generosity has inspired many others. In 2011, they launched The Briggs Challenge at La Costa Glen to get their neighbors on board. The effort was a big success, encouraging dozens in the retirement community to give. To honor their spirit of giving, Scripps President and CEO Chris Van Gorder recently presented them with a Scripps presidential challenge coin. The coin’s design is based on the traditional military version, which commanders give out to build camaraderie in their units. Van Gorder knew that, given Blaine’s military experience, it would be an appropriate acknowledgment.


“It was the first time he had given it to anyone outside of Scripps employees,” Blaine says. “We were touched.”


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