Charles Riley, 75, was firefighters' advocate

February 25, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles W. Riley, a longtime volunteer with the Abingdon Fire Co. and lobbyist for the Maryland State Firemen's Association, died Sunday at St. Joseph Medical Center from complications of heart bypass surgery. He was 75.

Mr. Riley was born in Harford County's Upper Crossroads Village and raised in nearby Perryman. He was a 1948 graduate of Bel Air High School, where he starred on the track team - a sport that won him an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Maryland, College Park.

From 1951 to 1959, he was a chemical technician at Edgewood Arsenal - leaving to take a job with Chemical Products Co. in Aberdeen.

He became an owner of Chemical Products in 1965, and a partner in Paidon Products Co. in Aberdeen in 1982. The two businesses manufacture chemical products, janitorial supplies and Kwik paint remover. He retired in 1991 after selling his interests in them.

Mr. Riley became a volunteer firefighter in 1953 when he joined the Abingdon company, and remained a firefighter and emergency medical services responder until 1990. He remained active in an administrative capacity until his death.

Through his more than 50 years of service with the fire company, Mr. Riley was credited with helping guide its development in becoming a highly trained and well-equipped organization.

"He was a driving influence and leader in the department. He was also one of the older members you went to when there was a problem or you needed advice," said Chief Albert H. "Cubby" Bair, who has headed the department for 30 years.

Since 1954, Mr. Riley has been a member of the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association, also serving as vice president, secretary and treasurer. He joined the Harford-Cecil Firemen's Association in 1957 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1989.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Riley was a member of the Maryland State Firemen's Association. He was a former president and chaired its legislative committee - a role that made him a familiar figure in Annapolis lobbying on issues involving firefighters and emergency medical services personnel.

"He'd go to Annapolis for the 90-day session and paid his own way. He worked hard on bills and legislation that would benefit firefighters and emergency medical services in Maryland," said Benjamin W. Kurtz, a member of the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Dept. and treasurer of the Harford-Cecil Firemen's Association.

Mr. Riley in 1985 helped secure passage of Senate Bill 508, known as the William H. Amoss Fund, which provides monetary support for volunteer and career fire, rescue and ambulance companies in Maryland.

He helped create the Fire Service Low Interest Loan Program - a revolving $1 million low-interest lending program for volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance companies acquiring equipment. He also helped secure state financial support for five regional training centers across Maryland.

"Charlie was the kind of man who said what he thought and was straight up. He did everything he could to help protect the citizens of Maryland. It was the primary drive of his life," said William J. Dousa Jr., an Abingdon Fire Co. board member and trustee. "He was well respected in Annapolis because he was so knowledgeable and the easiest guy in the world to talk to."

Mr. Riley was a longtime member and chairman of the Harford County Liquor Control Board.

He was a 50-year member of Cokesbury United Methodist Church, where he had been chairman of the board, caretaker of its cemetery and a Sunday school teacher.

Services with departmental honors will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at the Abingdon Fire Co., 3306 Abingdon Road, and his casket will be transported aboard Engine 414, a Pierce white-and orange pumper, to the church cemetery.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, the former Phoebe "Sis" V. Nichols; two sons, Charles A. "Chip" Riley and Bruce R. Riley, both of Bel Air; a brother, Bradley M. Riley of Perryman; and three grandchildren.

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