Richard B. Riehl, 70, music teacher, bandleader at city, Shore nightclubs

December 22, 1997|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Richard B. Riehl will always be remembered as the bandleader who led a conga line through nightclubs in Baltimore and Ocean City, playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" on his beloved trumpet.

The former music teacher at North Point Junior High School and Dundalk High School died Wednesday in his sleep at his Ocean City home. He was 70.

Mr. Riehl was born in Baltimore and received his first instrument, a trumpet, at 13 after he was smitten by music through the talents of a cousin, Nelson Knode, who owned a music store on Frederick Road in Catonsville.

He attended Essex Community College and what now is Morgan State University and also received a scholarship to study music at Peabody Institute. He played in the U.S. Navy Band while in the service during World War II.

"Music was his gift, and it was his instrument to touch people's lives -- and he did," said Bonnie Riehl, a daughter. "He had the ability to make everybody feel special. Anybody was allowed to come in and sing and play their instrument and be a star."

Mr. Riehl loved the big-band sound and had formed a swing orchestra called the Dick Riehl Orchestra.

He also organized fund-raisers and charity events for underprivileged and mentally retarded children, said another daughter, Barbara Riehl, a member of the band the Hubcaps.

"He just loved music," said Barbara Riehl. "He's like the real, live 'Mr. Holland's Opus' story. He dedicated his life to teaching children music, and a lot of them grew up to be professional musicians."

After teaching in the Baltimore County public school system for 25 years, Mr. Riehl retired and moved to the Eastern Shore to live near the ocean. He taught as a substitute in Wicomico and Worcester county schools for the past 15 years.

In the late 1940s, Mr. Riehl married Jane Kirkwood Justis, and the couple lived in Woodlawn and had four children. They divorced, and Mr. Riehl married Doris Belcher.

The Riehl children often performed as a band on the old Port Welcome boat at Baltimore's Inner Harbor as school children took field trips, Barbara Riehl said. One played drums, another played the flute and saxophone while the two other siblings played guitar and clarinet.

Locally, Mr. Riehl played at Carney Crab House, Kibby's and the Briarwood Inn in Bel Air.

"He thought music was the universal language," said Barbara Riehl.

A memorial service was held yesterday at Burbage Funeral Home in Berlin. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Dick Riehl Memorial Fund, established at Peninsula Bank in Berlin.

Mr. Riehl is survived by his wife, Doris; four children, Richard Riehl of Salisbury, Robert Riehl of Rustberg, Va., Barbara Riehl of Gaithersburg and Bonnie Riehl of Glen Rock, Pa.; and nine grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/22/97

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