William J. Rivers, 85

Social Security official, World War II veteran

January 29, 2007

William Joseph Rivers, a retired manager at the Social Security Administration, died Thursday at St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Southwest Baltimore of complications related to multiple strokes. He was 85 and had lived in Catonsville.

Raised in Anaconda, Mont., Mr. Rivers graduated from Montana State University at Bozeman. During World War II, he served with the 1st Marine Division at the Battle of Peleliu in the South Pacific.

He earned the rank of lieutenant colonel during his time in the Marine Corps.

After the war, Mr. Rivers went to work for the Social Security Administration.

He was a field representative in Montana, Utah and Colorado, and went on to manage offices in Rock Springs and Cheyenne, Wyo., and in Colorado Springs, Colo.

While in Utah, Mr. Rivers met Elanne Sax, who became his wife of 56 years.

They met on a double date - but not with each other.

"They were dating the other people," said their son, Thomas Rivers of Ellicott City. "When the two couples broke up, they got together."

In 1959, Mr. Rivers transferred to Social Security headquarters in Baltimore.

His assignments included serving on the task force that set up Medicare. He directed the administration's disability program before he retired in the late 1970s.

He later spent about a decade working for the state Department of Aging.

Mr. Rivers took many courses at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, the Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He loved art and the physical sciences, especially astronomy. He also enjoyed fishing, hunting, walking and swimming.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 30 Melvin Ave., Catonsville.

In addition to his son and wife, other survivors include a sister, Doris Monahan of Las Vegas; and three grandchildren.

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