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Riley, Walter Howard

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October 30, 1932 - July 3, 2016

Riley, Walter Howard

Riley, Walter Howard, of Farmers Branch, TX, passed away Sunday evening, July 3, 2016 of complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Walter was born October 20, 1932 in Cavite, Philippines, to Henry Riley and Yurie Horea Riley.

He was preceded in his death by his wife of 53 years, Margaret Swanson Riley; 2 brothers; 5 sisters; and his parents.

He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Riley Franks; brother-in-law, Kenneth & Taccie Swanson; numerous nieces and nephews; his children: Bryan & Marla Riley of Germantown, MD, Betsy & Jim Palma of Farmers Branch, TX, and Michael & Shawn-Marie Riley of Arlington, TX; his grandchildren, Jacqueline Allen, Kelly Palma, Grayson Riley, Benjamin Riley and Linnea Riley.

Walter was born in the Philippines where his father was working at the Naval base in Cavite. His parents met while his Japanese mother was visiting family in the Philippines.

For the first 9 years of Walter’s life, he was living an ideal childhood as the youngest of 9 kids with his dog Rex. Then WWII started and Walter and his whole family were interned by the Japanese in a civilian prisoner of war camp at Santo Tomas University in Manilla, Philippines.  After their liberation in 1945 they moved to the United States.  Later in Walter’s life he found it cathartic to speak about his experiences and even provided a write up for a website http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/Riley.htm.

After the war, Walter attended school in West Blockton, AL where he was a multi-sport letterman. Before his senior year, his family moved to Lancaster, TX where he was sad to find out that he couldn’t participate in any sports; however, he was honored to be accepted by his classmates and voted Senior Class President and “Friendliest Senior” of Lancaster High School.

The start of the Korean War prompted Walter to enlist in the Navy after graduating from Lancaster High School in 1951. The Navy sent Walter to training classes and he served as a fire control technician on the destroyer USS Erben patrolling off the coast of North Korea

After 4 years in the Navy Walter moved to Dallas and started working at Texas Instruments where he met, fell in love with and married a young woman, Margaret, from Brooklyn, NY. While continuing to work at TI, supporting a wife and new baby, Walter attended Arlington State College (now UTA) and went on to earn his Electrical Engineering degree.  Walter enjoyed playing on the TI Space Systems softball team and playing golf at Brookhaven Country Club.

Walter was part of the teams that helped design and build spacecraft that explored the solar system. These included the Ranger program that photographed the moon and the Mariner missions that visited Mars. Walter was also part of the group working on the Global Positioning System that we all rely on today.

After a 35-year career with TI, Walter accepted an early retirement package so he and Margaret could travel around the country and visit family. Walter also enjoyed traveling with his buddies to fly fish in California and Colorado and even tying his own flies.  He also became very active and held office in the local and national American Ex-Prisoners of War (AX-POW) organizations.

Walter and Margaret were founding members and very involved with Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church in Carrollton, TX. However, despite the great importance of HUUC in their lives, his involvement did have limits. Walter agreed to be on the building maintenance committee if they would not have meetings.  He said he had attended too many meetings while at TI. He was recruited to fill a vacated space on the board and was proud to serve.

Walter was Margaret’s primary caregiver for the last 2 years of her life as she battled Alzheimer’s. The five years following Margaret’s death were marked by his own struggle with Alzheimer’s and his steady decline. The last 9 months of Walter’s life were spent confined to a wheelchair under the attention of Grace Hospice and the staff of Oxford Glen Memory Care in Carrollton, TX where he received exceptional care.

The extended Riley family would like to thank everyone for their friendship and care given to Margaret and Walter throughout the years.

A celebration of Walter’s life will be held on Saturday, September 17th, 2016 at 12pm at Horizon UU Church 1641 W. Hebron Parkway, Carrollton, TX 75010.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to Metrocrest Services of Farmers Branch, TX, or the Alzheimer’s Association.

Please leave the family condolences and share memories on this website.

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George T. Spetar

September 19, 2016 2:01PM

Rest in peace Walt. I enjoyed your company back in 1978 and 1979. Playing softball, backgammon, and of course, working at Texas Instruments.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Walt's family. You lost a very good one.


Les Priebe

September 07, 2016 10:52AM

Walter was a truly good man. I worked with him at Texas Instruments at the Surveyor Road site for several years. He cared about the people he worked with and was always compassionate and honest. His life story is an inspiration to me.


Weidaand Robert Scott

July 25, 2016 1:24PM

I worked with Walt for several years. He was a great mentor to young engineers who came on the program. He and Margaret are together in a safe place.


Leland Langston

July 24, 2016 11:28PM

I worked in Walt's Space Systems group in the early 70's and found those years to be the best of my career. Walt was a great person and I am sad to hear of his passing, particularly the disease that culminated in his death.