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Sheldon "Red" J. Riley

Sheldon "Red" J. Riley

February 26, 2017

Sheldon Junior "Red" Riley, age 91, passed away quietly Sunday evening, February 26, with his daughters at his side.

Red was born in Newton, Iowa to Sheldon James Riley and Gladys DeReus, the only son and second of five children.  An anecdote he liked to tell was how he sustained minor injuries but a lifelong scar on his left cheek at age 5 when the school bus he exited accidentally hit him as it pulled away.  He grew up in the fields and farms of his extended Iowa family, and moved to Minneapolis as a young man when his father came to the city to do machinist work as the war began in 1941.

Red met his future wife of 65 years, Dorothy "Dottie" Trombley, at Patrick Henry High School, where he graduated in December 1944.  He immediately enlisted in the Navy and after training in Farragut, Idaho, served as a machinist mate on the dry docks that followed war ships throughout the Pacific in the final year of World War II.  Shortly after he returned in 1947, he and Dottie happened to meet again on a downtown Minneapolis street, and married the following June 19, 1948.

Red used his GI Bill benefits to attend the University of Minnesota extension division and received an Applied Mortuary Science certificate in 1949, and began his career by selling caskets as well as doing mortuary work part-time.  After a short time running a full service funeral home in Oregon Illinois, he chose to try varied jobs in the sales world, including many years with Gambles and OK Hardware as a district salesman. He and Dottie lived and worked in towns and cities throughout the Midwest, making many lifelong friends in the process.  From Mankato and Minneapolis Minnesota, to Oregon and Rockford Illinois, Hays Kansas and almost 40 years in Eau Claire, they raised three daughters and made countless friends.  Red loved to duck hunt and fish, be on the water in a boat, play poker or cards with friends, and always had a smile and joke to tell. Generous to a fault and gifted with a red-haired temperament, he was patriotic and drove with flags flying on his car. Never a dull moment according to Dottie!

After retirement, Red began a second career using his talents from years on the road to drive cars for the many auto dealerships in the EauClaire and Chippewa area.  He and a close-knit group of men drove cars back and forth to the auctions in Minneapolis or Chicago almost daily, and later he drove the customer shuttle vans around town for many of the same businesses, including Jim Carter Ford and the Saturn dealership. He only stopped driving in his late-80s to spend time caring for Dottie as her health deteriorated and they moved together to Grace Edgewood Assisted Living in Altoona in early 2014.  Grace Edgewood provided a joyful and family-like setting for Red in his final years after Dottie passed away.

Red was an active member of VFW clubs wherever he lived, and spent many hours and special occasions at the BPO Elks Lodge in Eau Claire.  The camaraderie and friendships developed there were the highlight of his and Dotties' retirement years, and the whole family, including grandkids, knew a visit to Grandpa and Grandma was never over until they spent an evening with family and friends at "The Elks".

Red was preceded in death by his wife Dottie and three sisters, Margery Cameron, Donna Mohn and Bonnie Basil.
He is survived by his three daughters, Cynthia (Greg) Helbert of Canton, Michigan; Barbara (Collin Bevins) Riley of Missoula, Montana; Patricia (Donald) Sargent of Eau Claire; grandchildren Brian Helbert (Deborah Nikitin) of Rochester, MI; Drewallyn Riley of Portland, Oregon; Bradley (Stacy) Helbert of West Lafayette, IN; Kelsyn Bevins of Portland, Oregon; and Shelly Beliveau of Eau Claire, WI; four great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family will hold a private service for internment at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis at a later date.  A celebration of Red and Dottie's lives will be held later this year, to be announced.

Memorials may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, or a veteran’s charity of the donor’s choice. Friends and family may offer condolences online at www.fullerspeckienhulke.com.

Fuller Speckien Hulke Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements.


There will be no public visitation.


A private family service will take place at a later date.