RICHARD A. RIIS JR.
June 7, 1924 - March 12, 2014
It is with great sorrow that the Riis family announces the passing of
Richard A. Riis Jr.
Richard passed quietly and peacefully at his home on March 12, 2014.
He was born on June 7, 1924 in Stamford, Connecticut to Richard A. Riis Sr. and Genevieve Gaffen-Riis and they lived in the Cos Cob Neighborhood of Greenwich, Connecticut. Richard was a good son, husband, father and a soldier of The Greatest Generation. After the passing of his father at age 3, he and his mother moved to Port Chester, New York to be closer to the Riis's extended family. In 1933 Richard and his Mom moved into a brand new apartment at 3 Calvert Street in the Harrison Township of Westchester, New York where Genevieve remained until her death at age 91. Harrison, New York would be the place that he would spend his formative years.
He attended the Port Chester and Harrison Elementary schools, Harrison Middle School and Harrison Senior High School. In middle school, Richard became interested and joined The Boy Scouts of American and finished that association as an Eagle Scout. While at Harrison High he was the number 1 Varsity and Junior Varsity Quarterback and Student Body President. His extracurricular activities in high school were as an avid photographer and part of a group that mentored other young students. To support he and his mother, he worked as a auto mechanic and a caddy at the Westchester County Club, the home of the PGA Westchester Classic. It did not go unnoticed by both faculty and advisors that Richard displayed great leadership qualities and one man in particular by the name of Bernard Aeurbach encouraged him in that direction.
After high school in February 1943 he was inducted into the United States Army and was assigned as a platoon sergeant at the basic tank destroyer school at Fort Hood, Texas. In May of 1943 Richard was then chosen for Officers Candidate School and sent to both Fort Benning, Georgia and Camp Blanding in Florida for his advanced infantry course. Upon graduation as a new 2nd Lieutenant at the age of 20 years old he was assigned in October 1944 to the 104th Infantry Division (surnamed the Timberwolf Division) who were assigned to the European Theatre of operation. The 104th fought two of the fiercest battles of World War II, the Battle of Hurtgen Forrest (October 1944) and the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944). As a platoon leader, Richard was awarded the Combat Infantry Mens Badge, Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Bronze Star with "V" Devise and 4 oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster. After his Federal service he stayed in the active Army reserve, transferring to the California Army National Guard where he remained and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander of the 1401st combat engineers, ending his 41 year military career.
The 104th was shipped to Camp San Luis Obispo after VE Day to wait for deployment to the Pacific Campaign when World War II ended. But it was at this base where he married his high school sweetheart, Miss Muriel Lucille Aletti in a military ceremony on August 22, 1945. It was also at this time that the Riis's got a chance to tour a bit of California on their honeymoon, which in the not so distant future would be the state that was chosen to move, work and raise a family.
When the war ended and with his new bride, Richard returned to New York to attend The New York State University at Ithaca under the G.I. Bill, like many other returning servicemen. He received his BS and MS in Health and Physical Education. After school, he, like all of his fellow graduates began looking for work through college placement and direct contact with prospective employers. It was this little elementary school district in Redding, CA that responded to his letter of inquiry, and as they say, "the rest is history". So Richard and Muriel pack up their maroon 1949 Plymouth sedan and along with their first son and headed West, to Redding, California.
In 1949 his first assignment with the district was at Pine Street School. Upon the completion of Sequoia Middle School, he was transferred as a teacher, head of the physical education department and eventually the vice principal during the 50s and 60s. After receiving his MA in school administration from the California State University at Chico in the early 50s, Richard moved to the administrative level with the ensuing principal ships at Cypress, Juniper, Bonnieview and Magnolia elementary schools. From 1971 to 1983 he, was the assistant superintendent of education/personnel services for the school district, the position from which he retired from education in 1983 as a member in good standing with the California Teachers Association.
Richard, known fondly by his friends as Dick Riis, beside his military and education careers gave tremendously to the community of Redding. Being a big proponent of health and fitness, served on the Redding Parks & Recreation Commission for 26 years starting in 1958, 8 years as its chairman. It was during his tenure with this commission and as chairman that the "genesis" of the Sacramento River Trail was born. The founders of this river trail project, were Dick, Susan Asbill and Barbara Gard, with great thanks from the city of Redding.
He was a member of the Shasta County Planning Commission from 1984 to 2001, being its chairman for many of those years and in 1994 he received commissioner of the year for all California Counties. Being a lover of all sports Dick was commissioner and working referee of the Northern Section California Interscholastic Federation that were employed by all of the high school districts of the 6 Northern California Counties for a duration of 11 years. One of Mr. Riis's greatest accomplishments was the promotion of the sport of tennis in Redding. Starting almost immediately when he arrived in Redding, he noticed that this sport was under represented both in the school and the community. Because of his personal affection for the game, he set about to change the landscape. As an extracurricular activity when he was physical education department chair he started selecting and soliciting athletes to join the fledging tennis team at Sequoia school in the early 1950s. Dick contacted other schools where he found tennis teams and set up competitions and tournaments.
Sequoia had no tennis courts of their own at that time and used the 4 courts at Redding's South City Park. The city courts were not in the greatest condition, so he lobbied heavily to get the city to modernize and resurface them, which they did because he was relentless. Because he was the battalion commander of the local Army National Guard unit, and it being and engineering unit, they cleared and prepped the land for the existing courts at Sequoia School presently.
In addition to his civil volunteer work, Dick was also a member of the Redding Elk's Lodge for 61 years, being awarded Elk of the years in 1992. He served on the Grand Jury, and the Community Development Board. He was a member of the American Legion for life, Reserve Officers Association for life and the Association of the Military Order of the Purple Heart who were very instrumental in getting the Veteran Cemetery built in Igo, California.
When expressing where he got his inspiration for public service, Dick said his mother Genevieve, Bernard Auerbach the head of the science department at Harrison High School, the military and his students. He gives credit to his mother because he watched her organize a cadre of 25 women to write and send packages to service men of all branches, which had no family or loved ones to correspond with. She did this from the beginning of World War II to the end. After the war and for 41 years she volunteered at the VA Hospital in Montrose, New York saying, "It is because my son was spared, I want to help those that weren't". She received letters of commendation from every President from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George "HW" Bush and the Harrison Township named a park after her. Dick when referring to his own volunteer service said "You always have to give back".
Richard is survived by his wife of 69 years, Muriel and his sons Robert and Richard.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 pm the 24th of March 2014, at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo, CA., with a reception following at the Redding Elk's Lodge.
In lieu of flowers the family request that you donate to the Good news Rescue Mission at 2842 South Market, Redding, CA 96001.
Please sign the guestbook at http://obituaries.redding.com
Published in Redding Record Searchlight on Mar. 20, 2014