Ralph Arthur Rieth
Ralph Arthur Rieth
  • November 4, 1922 - February 20, 2017
  • Peterborough, New Hampshire

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Ralph Arthur Rieth, Jr., 94, died peacefully on February 20th at the RiverMead Retirement Community in Peterborough where he had resided since June 2000. Born in Keene, NH on November 4, 1922, he attended Keene schools, graduating from Keene High School as Salutatorian in 1940. He entered an accelerated program at the Tuck School at Dartmouth College, graduating in 1943. From there he went directly into the Navy during World War II. Stationed in Solomon's, Maryland, he met and seven months later married his beloved wife, Emma Abel, who was a Navy Ensign serving at the same base. Though the parents of the bride and groom saw it as a "hasty wartime marriage," Ralph and Em were happily married for almost 57 years until her death in January 2002

After the war they settled in Keene and raised their four children -- Carolyn, Richard, Peg and Nancy (Kate). Ralph was employed by the International Narrow Fabric Company, a business founded by his father, Ralph Rieth along with Emil Grube and Frederick Graf. After 25 years as a successful executive at the company, Ralph, then in his late forties, made the decision to go back to school for an advanced degree in Marketing. He had a desire to teach at the college level and bring his practical business experience to the academic environment. He attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and received both his master's degree and his Ph.D. For the next ten years he taught Business and Marketing at several colleges, retiring from University of Massachusetts at Lowell in the mid-1980s.

Ralph and Em retired to Harrisville, NH where they built a solar heated house (using both active and passive solar), supplemented by a wood stove. They were very excited to build a house that was advanced for its time and that they strove to make environmentally friendly. They reluctantly sold their "dream house" in 2000 to move to RiverMead for the remainder of their lives.

Ralph and his wife will be remembered for their love for each other and their lifelong commitment to tirelessly giving back to their community. Ralph was a member of the First Baptist Church of Keene for his 94 years and was instrumental in making the "new" church building on Maple Avenue become a reality in 1966. During his adult years it is safe to say that he served on or headed nearly every committee at the First Baptist Church, and he was a stalwart member of the choir for most of his life. Ralph also was involved in the greater community in myriad ways. He served on the Board of Education in both Keene and in Harrisville; he was a trustee at several local banks; he served on the board of the YMCA and he was a lifelong member of the Rotary Club. He was literally the poster boy for the Red Cross, donating as often as allowed by the bloodmobile rules and supplying a record number of gallons over the years. In his retirement years he volunteered for SCORE, an organization of retired business people who donate their time providing free advice and consultation to young people in the community who are interested in starting their own businesses.

Ralph had many interests. He was an avid gardener and had an extensive plot at his home on Woodburn Street. Because of the size and scope of his garden he was able to provide his family with fresh produce, and he and Em froze, canned, and pickled enough produce to get the family through most of the winter as well. Gardening was his natural stress relief after a long day at the office. He continued his gardening in Harrisville and even at RiverMead for a few years. He also enjoyed annual summer camping trips with his family, he and his wife performed in amateur theater productions early in their married life and later they were active members in the Monadnock Squares square dancing group. In retirement, spurred on by Em's passion for travel they went on many trips to faraway places such as Egypt, China, the Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand as well as many trips to Europe to visit friends and family. Often they traveled with Elderhostel, an educational travel organization for older people now known as Road Scholar. Though Ralph would say Em was generally the driving force for these trips, Ralph became almost as passionate as she once they traveled to Hawaii for the first time. They returned often and Ralph was uncharacteristically effusive about the beauty of Hawaii, remembering these trips fondly in later years.

Ralph is survived by four children, Carolyn Rieth of Reston, VA; Richard Rieth of Westminster, VT; Peg Messer and husband Eric of London, England and (Nancy) Kate Luce and husband John of Brookfield, CT as well as seven grandchildren, five great grandchildren and two nieces and two nephews and their families. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph Rieth, Sr. and Marion Sutton Rieth; his sister, Anil Whitcomb; his wife, Emma Rieth and his oldest grandson, Brian McKelvey. His children will remember him as a loving father and a person who showed them the power of love through action as evidenced by his commitment to his family, to his community and to his church. He will be missed by the many people whose lives he touched and especially by his family.

There will be a memorial service this summer at First Baptist Church of Keene at a time to be determined. His cremains will be interred at the family plot at Woodland Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to any of the following: First Baptist Church of Keene, 105 Maple Ave, Keene, NH 03431, Community Kitchen, PO Box 1315, Keene, NH 03431 (www.TheCommunityKitchen.org), or the Cheshire County Historical Society, PO Box 803, Keene, NH 03431.