August William Riess II passed peacefully in his Walpole home of sixty-seven years on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. He was surrounded by his devoted family. He is survived by his beloved wife of sixty-nine years, Kathleen, and his children: August W. Riess lll of Foxboro Ma, Mariah Riess of Dover, Ma, Eileen Riess of Pascoag, RI, Kurt Riess of Mendon, Ma, Kerry Riess of Norwich, Vt and Eric Riess of Canton Ma. He is also survived by twelve grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, one great, great grandchild and numerous nieces and nephews.
Gus was born to Kathleen (McManus)and August William Riess l in Cranston, RI on August 17, 1926. He had four sisters, Genevieve, Kathleen, Frances and Eileen whom he adored. His father, AW Riess I was a gifted artist and athlete who died before Dad was born. He left his young son a large gap to fill. Dad lived his life reflecting his own father’s prolific legacy always striving to emulate it. He proudly honored his father in the truest sense of that term.
Assuming the role of “man of the house”, Gus developed countless skills and a rare brand of determination. He accomplished feats far beyond his years. By the age of twelve he had roofed his own home, foreshadowing the many trades he would master as an adult. He gained regional attention for his remarkable singing voice, winning competitions and regularly performing on the radio. His mother would not part with him when a Hollywood agent came calling!
Gus’ powerful role models presented themselves in high school at LaSalle Academy in Providence, RI. Dad cherished his years at this institution. He referred to his values-based education often, and he credited the Brothers teaching for shaping his life. Gus was an idealist who, for his entire life, lived by closely-held ideals and the values of honor and virtue that were cultivated in these formative years at LaSalle.
As a young adult, the chapters of Gus’ life were rich and varied. His two years in the US Navy were always remembered as an exciting and valued time. As an Electrician’s Mate Third Class, Gus traveled the South Pacific. He thrived in an environment with the companionship of men on a mission defending their country. A true creative, Gus taught sewing, gave haircuts, and was known for his coveted paintings of Varga Girls on the hull of a ship, shirts and Navy sea bags.
Following his tenure in the Service, Gus enrolled at Brown University with the intention of becoming a physician. Family obligations truncated this dream, mandating a return to the work world, and so his career began. His renaissance nature was exemplified in becoming an engineer working for Honeywell Petroleum Services for thirty years all the while enrolling in evening classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. Upon retirement from Honeywell, he became Director of Environmental Services at Hahnemann Hospital in Brighton, MA. In his 70s - not to be stopped - Dad built AW Riess Specialties as a reflection of his true love, carpentry.
Gus met “the girl of my dreams”, his wife Kathleen McKenna when he was twenty-five. Their love and friendship spanned sixty-nine years and represented a love story for the ages. Six children followed. The world of the Riess family revolved around raising these children with deeply ingrained moral teachings best summed up as The Golden Rule.
Dad was strict, and he was completely “for you”. He was respected and sometimes feared. He was a strict disciplinarian who held high standards. He loved us fiercely. By grade school, we were expected to have early morning paper routes. Our Dad was there to provide the hot cocoa as we headed out the door. He held room inspections teaching us how to make a navy corner with our sheets siting the standard that a quarter should bounce off of a made bed. No matter his strictness, we also grew to know we could count on our Dad no matter what. He built us dog pens, a horse corral, parallel bars. He brought the thrill of physical fitness in all forms to each of our lives. He introduced his family to what remains still, after 49 years, the favorite week of the year, camping in Rangely State Park.
In our eyes, there wasn’t anything he could not or would not do for us.
As each of us became adults with our own homes, Dad was there always to fix a leak, repair a car, remodel a basement. If you had bees in your house, Dad was there. If you showed up at the tennis court and the nets had been removed for the season, Dad would just happen to have a net in the trunk of his car. He was truly a kind and intensely curious man who could fix anything.
He was our “Superman”.
While we grieve the loss of this great man, throughout his last years we had the privilege to love and care for him in his home. Our Dad woke up every morning joyfully proclaiming, “I love my life!”. Every day of his final years he held his wife’s hand throughout the day. Not a day would pass without his saying, “I married the best girl”. As we shed our tears - and we do - we all remember how much love we felt from him, and we know he felt from all of us.
A life well lived is easy to say, but not easy to accomplish. Our Dad truly lived a life that by all standards, was a life well lived. His was a good life because he was so good. He never credited his satisfaction to himself. Each day we heard his deep and profound gratitude in these simple, deeply-believed statements: “God has been so good to me.” and “I can’t wait to meet my dad in Heaven.”. As we say goodbye to this giant of a man, what more could we who are left behind ask for?
Given Dad’s deep appreciation for the educational and unique character development opportunities afforded students at La Salle Academy, making this opportunity available to students in need would truly honor his memory. Donations may be made to:
The August William Riess ll Class of 44 Scholarship Fund, LaSalle Academy, 612 Academy Ave. Providence, RI 02908.