Richard O. Riess
Richard O. Riess
Richard O. Riess, father of Durango resident Naomi Riess, died Nov. 3, 2012, in Brighton from lung cancer. He was 84.
Mr. Riess was born Jan. 8, 1928, in Rochester, N.Y., the son of Oscar V. Riess and Loretta Hart Riess. His father died when Mr. Riess was 13. He attended schools in Irondequoit, N.Y., graduating from the Deveaux School in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
After one year at the University of Rochester, he enlisted in the U.S. Army right after the end of World War II. He served in the Signal Corps in the Army of Occupation in Japan.
Mr. Riess returned to the University of Rochester on the GI bill, graduating in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in history. While there, he was active in liberal causes and was instrumental in starting a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
He was married to Sara Titus, but they later divorced. The couple moved to New York City where Mr. Riess enrolled in the East Asian Institute of Columbia University, studying the culture and language of Japan. He changed majors and earned a master’s degree at Teachers College of Columbia University.
Mr. Riess supported himself as a merchant seaman on the Grace Lines, sailing to several Mediterranean and South American ports. He stayed active in liberal and political causes.
In 1955, Mr. Riess taught history at Mount Kisco High School in New York. In 1956, he began teaching history and geography at Danbury State Teachers College, now Western Connecticut State University. At Danbury State, he met and married student Susan Lucas. They moved to Marblehead, Mass., in 1959.
Mr. Riess taught geography and cartography at Salem State College (now Salem State University) in Salem, Mass., from 1959 to 1983. During those years, he edited and wrote articles for the Journal of Geography, The Professional Geographer and The New Book of Knowledge.
He continued to travel extensively, including to Brazil on a National Science Foundation Fellowship.
When Mr. Riess visited his daughter and grandsons in Durango, he attended the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship.
He is survived by his daughter, Naomi Riess of Durango; two grandsons; and former wife, Susan Riess of Marblehead, Mass.
No services are planned. Mr. Riess will be buried in Marblehead, Mass.
Memorial contributions may be made in Mr. Riess’ name to La Plata County Historical Society, P.O. Box 3384, Durango, CO 81302.