Thomas M. Riley, Class of 1927

June 24, 2003
Santa Paula High School
By B. J. Harding, President, SPUHS Alumni Association Biography #211 (Have you submitted yours?)Coming to Santa Paula in 1918 with his parents, George and Annie Riley, Tom had brother James (’32) and sister Catherine (’35).At SPUHS Tom was on the football, track, basketball, baseball and tennis teams. He was especially gifted in tennis, and won several Ventura County championship trophies over the years. This sport was his relaxation and joy throughout his life, and for many years he had games with Milton Teague (’21), Roy Wilson, Sr. and Roy Wilson, Jr. (’35), Ted Sharp (’07), Dr. Art Strong (’20), and many others.After graduation from SPUHS, Tom worked for Dodge Bros. Garage while taking postgraduate business classes at SPUHS. In 1929 he went to work as a bookkeeper for the Security Pacific Bank, and when Citizens State Bank was formed was offered a position with the new bank. This started a 63-year relationship with Citizens State Bank, and even after retirement he visited the bank nearly every day until his passing.Starting at the bottom, he worked his way through every position in the bank, ending as the chairman of the Board. Tom Riley’s name was synonymous with the Citizens State Bank. Everyone in Santa Paula knew his name and his reputation, which was unsullied in his community.Tom was there for everyone. He was never too busy to answer a question or offer assistance to anyone, whether it was for banking information or any other subject where he could be of assistance. Tom was truly one of the best-loved and respected members of this community.Tom vividly recalled the St. Francis Dam disaster to his children in later years. The family home was washed off its foundation, and was eventually found near Isbell School. Of course, the family lost all their belongings including the family car and all their mother’s treasures from her home in Ireland, which had been in a trunk.
Tom married Jean Bowie of Fillmore, formerly of Edinburgh, Scotland, and to them were born seven children: Tom (’48), Dick (’50), Charles “Bud” (’51), Ron (’54), Betty (’57), Janet (’60), and Marilyn (’64). For 20 years there was a least one Riley child in SPUHS, and when Tom joined the high school Board of Trustees in the 1950s he said he felt it was his responsibility to support the school that had given so much to his family.Tom held many positions in the community, serving as treasurer for the Santa Paula Junior Chamber of Commerce (during the forming days of Harding Park), the Santa Paula Community Fund, the Santa Paula Community Center Endowment Fund, and as a director of the Santa Paula Boys & Girls Club. He was a member of the Rotary Club, a director of the Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Tri Counties Bankers Association. The community honored him as the Grand Marshal in the 1991 Christmas Parade, and the Alumni Association honored him as Alumnus of the Year in 1988.Tom was truly a family man, spending his vacation with his family at their beach cabin on the Rincon and touring Sequoia Park. He enjoyed taking his sons on fishing trips to the eastern Sierras and stopping to visit his old friend Bob Clunie, acclaimed artist formerly of Santa Paula, then living in Bishop, California.In June of 1992, Tom and his sons Tom and Ron took a trip to Ireland to see the beautiful Irish countryside and visit the farm where his mother was born and lived until her emigration to the U.S. in 1900. He met cousins who now run the farm, and was thrilled to visit the place where his mother grew up. They then took a bus tour of Ireland. On their last night of the tour in Sligo, Ireland, Tom suffered a heart attack and passed away. His life was now complete, for he had returned to the home of his ancestry.

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