fb-pixel Skip to main content

Rainè Riggs, neuropsychologist and Bernie Sanders’ daughter-in-law, dies at 46 after cancer diagnosis

In an image taken from video, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke with reporters outside his home Tuesday in Burlington, Vt. His wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, listens at right. Wilson Ring/AP/Associated Press

Rainè Riggs, the daughter-in-law of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, died Saturday — two days after being diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, according to Lee & Martin Funeral Home in Burgettstown, Pa. Dr. Riggs was 46.

A neuropsychologist, she was married to Levi Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for a New Hampshire congressional seat in 2018.

According to her death notice, Dr. Riggs was the director of behavioral medicine at Dartmouth Medical School for several years, and she started the Palliative Care Department for Dartmouth Medical Center. She also owned Riggs Geriatric Psychology in Windsor, Vt.

In addition to her husband, whom she met while the two worked at an emergency food shelter in Vermont, Dr. Riggs leaves three children.


“How do you go on day by day when your heart just keeps breaking over and over?” her death notice reads. “How can the world ever be the same when it said goodbye to such a beautiful soul? It is simple.... our world will never be the same.”

According to her death notice, Riggs was valedictorian of her high school in Burgettstown in 1990. She went on to attend American University, Harvard University, and Brown University, where she earned her master’s degree in geriatric neuropsychology and clinical sleep medicine. She then went on to earn her doctorate in neuropsychology at the University of Vermont.

Riggs was described as “a truly selfless person” who worked with homeless veterans, 9/11 survivors, and pediatric hospice patients.

Riggs fell ill about three weeks ago, and doctors were “stumped” on her diagnosis, the notice said.

“We brought her home last Sunday to UPMC, where she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. She died two days later,” the notice said.

Riggs’s last words were to tell her children how much she loved them, and apologizing for getting so sick, according to the notice.


“I don’t know how our family will ever get over this loss as she was loved so much. I do know that we will continue on because we have to.... we promised her we would,” the death notice said.

Senator Sanders and his wife, Jane, were listed among the family members who survived Riggs.

There will be no public visitation, according to the notice, and services will be held privately. The notice encouraged those wishing to remember Riggs to make a donation to “the charity that meant the most to her, Love Without Boundaries.”

Levi Sanders, the son of Bernie Sanders, in 2018. His wife, Rainè Riggs, died Saturday.AP/File/Associated Press

Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.