Remembering the life of Fred Riley

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

With the passing of 99-year-old Fred Riley, Sr. on Monday afternoon, Dec. 1, Greenville lost yet another native son who was long active in the local business community.

Riley ran a successful business, Riley Construction Company, for a number of years in Greenville. While he had lived in other locales, including Miami and West Palm Beach, in a 2002 Advocate interview Riley said he always considered Greenville &uot;home.&uot;

Mr. Riley was a sort of ‘living history treasure’ who often assisted with stories tracing the history of the area. His letters to the editor were a welcome constant for many readers of The Greenville Advocate throughout the years.

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Whether sharing fond memories of long-ago days spent growing up in the Forest Home Community, or offering pithy observations about current national and world events, Riley’s written words displayed a mind that remained sharp and active into his final years.

A widower, Riley had resided since 1995 in Pine Needle Place, an assisted living facility in Greenville. According to Pine Needle’s director, Lisa Stringer, &uot;He was certainly at home here.&uot;

Stringer noted many of the facility’s residents were greatly saddened by the news of Riley’s death. &uot;I waited until [Tuesday] morning to tell them…I didn’t want folks to be worried throughout the night. As I expected, some of them took it pretty hard,&uot; she noted.

Mr. Riley, who was noted for his dapper daily attire of crisply pleated trousers, dress shirt and tie, remained active up until his last days.

&uot;He made a point of going over two to three times each week to the nursing home to sing and also sang once a week here at Pine Needle. He really did love music,&uot; noted Stringer, adding, &uot;If he had anything else he had to do, he made sure he got back in time to participate in those singings&uot;.

In the Oct. 2002 article, Riley himself reflected on his fondness for singing old hymns and gospel music.

&uot;I sure enjoy singing…people say they still like to hear me sing, too, which is kind of unusual. Not too many people my age are still able to do much more than croak out the music,&uot; he said.

According to Stringer, Riley’s only surviving son, Fred Riley, Jr., a resident of Destin, Florida, routinely traveled to Greenville every other week to visit with his dad.

&uot;He and Mr, Fred would got out to the nursing homes together and sing when he came to visit,&uot; Stringer explained.

She said she was &uot;so glad&uot; Riley was able to see his 99th birthday’s arrival this November 23.

&uot;Bless his heart, he made it to that milestone…someone said those other days were ‘just the gravy,’&uot; Stringer noted.

The Pine Needle director is certain the Forest Home native will be missed by many of his friends, old and new.

&uot;I haven’t been here at Pine Needle for a long time, but I sure have been blessed to get to know him over the last months. He was a wonderful gentleman,&uot; Stringer said.

&uot;You know, his very favorite gospel song was called &uot;What Will I Leave Behind?&uot;

When I think about Mr. Riley, truly, I believe everybody he touched through his life, he blessed. That’s the gift he left behind for us,&uot; she noted.