Riff Proctor

riff proctor

Riff Proctor

Riff Proctor disliked being called by his full name, which was Ralph Fenno Proctor, III, but rather preferred either his family nickname Pete, or his college nickname Riff.  He was born March 12, 1937, in Winchester, Massachusetts to Louise Stevens Proctor and Ralph Fenno Proctor, Jr.  His early years were spent in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Maryland.  His family moved to Montclair, New Jersey when he was nine and remained there throughout his school years.  He graduated from Montclair High School in 1955.  During high school he was very active in athletics and music as a member of the track team and singer in various choirs and ensembles.  Judging from the formal and informal entries in his senior year book (as well as the tales he told on himself) he had more colorful extra-curricular activities, such that his classmates selected him as the biggest flirt and best dancer.

Riff began his college career at the University of Virginia where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity and a quartet that performed at various women’s’ colleges in the area.  There is no doubt that he contributed to UVA’s reputation as the number one party school in that era.  During college he met and married his first wife, Joan Crocker.  After his junior year, they moved back to New Jersey where he completed his Bachelor’s degree in business at Rutgers University in 196­­4.  He was president of the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and was one of twenty seven students honored by being awarded the Rutgers Key. They were blessed to have two children, Steven Harry Proctor (1959) and Richard Alan Proctor (1961).  After 11 years of marriage, Riff and Joan parted ways in 1970.

After earning his degree, Riff entered the fledging computer industry, working for companies that included Control Data, RCA, and Systems Engineering Laboratories selling mainframe computer systems that filled entire rooms.  One of his greatest accomplishments was winning the Grumman contract over IBM for the computer system that would eventually lead to the LEM vehicle landing on the moon.

While computer marketing provided well for his family, it did not satisfy his inner passion to make this world a better place.  Riff loved spending his free time with kids; both his own and those of others.  He loved coaching track and field and Little League baseball.  In 1972 he even coached Steve and Rick’s baseball team, the “Montclair Blues”, to a league championship.  This was a surprise win and the other coach complained that Riff was cheating by having every child bat and play at least one inning; the following year this became a league rule.  He also headed AAU Track and Field for New Jersey for several years. 

His volunteer work at a chairman of the Narcotics Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, New Jersey and chairman and counselor at the Escape Hatch teen canteen youth drug rehab program sponsored by his church led him to leave business and enter Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  He studied there for two years and thrived on his work visiting indigent patients at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Harlem and serving as chaplain at Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City.  He knew his calling was not to be behind the pulpit, but working directly with people.  He left seminary and continued searching for his special niche.

In late 1970, Riff met the “love of his life and soul mate”, Diane Cole.  They wed October 23, 1971 and were married for almost 43 years.  In their early years of marriage they lived in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina until they returned to Diane’s home state of Colorado in 1978 and settled in the Denver area.  For the last 24 years they have lived in Parker, Colorado. They were blessed with one son, Jeffrey Scott Proctor (1986).

Following his marriage to Diane, Riff returned to the computer industry, but still had the desire for something more personally fulfilling.  He returned to school and earned his Master’s degree in special education from William Patterson College in 1975.  He then taught for three years in Totowa, New Jersey.  Diane and Riff then moved to Durham, North Carolina where, for a 14 month stint, Riff’s work was the renovation of their 19th century home.   After deciding Durham was not where they wanted to settle down, they moved to Denver, Colorado and Riff once again returned to the computer industry working for Sperry Univac, Control Data, Apollo, and Hewlett Packard.  At the time he took early retirement, the computer industry had evolved from the giant mainframes he originally sold, to the desktop and laptop computers most of us take for granted today.

With a successful business career behind him, Riff once again sought to fulfill his passion of working with kids.  He took the additional coursework he needed for his Colorado Teaching License as a special educator.  He spent seven years as a full-time teacher in Aurora and Douglas County school districts.  He particularly loved his work at West Middle School, one of the most challenging schools in Aurora.  He was especially proud of his teaching resulted in getting many of his students off Individual Education Plans and into the educational mainstream.  After leaving full-time teaching, he worked for several additional years as a substitute teacher in Douglas County.

One of Riff’s special talents and joys was building exquisite wooden ship and boat models.  His relaxation and enjoyment came more from the process than the finished product.  After he retired from full-time teaching, he did complete several ships that are proudly displayed in their home.  There are also several pieces of work still in progress, including a small boat model he was working on during the final weeks of his life.

One of Riff’s gifts was a wonderful sense of humor. He loved to make people laugh and to tease, as well as be teased.  It delighted him when people gave him back just as much “business” as he dished out to them.  Even when Riff was so very ill, he still managed to develop special relationships with his care givers and to let his humor shine through.

Over the past three and a half years, Riff has been in declining health battling diabetes, coronary disease and MDS.  As treatment for the MDS, Riff endured several rounds of chemotherapy and countless transfusions.  Though he fought a valiant fight, especially these last eight months, he was not able to regain his health.  He is now at peace.  He passed away at home on Monday, August 18, 2014.  He is survived by: his wife Diane; his three sons, Steve, Rick and Jeff; their respective wives, Natalie, Anna and Jessica; and by four grandchildren, Kristyn, Ben, Daniel and Jack.

Throughout his life some of Riff’s happiest times were spent on the beach.  For the past 50 years, the beach he cherished was at the family’s summer cottage in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on the waters of Buzzards Bay.  Riff’s wish was to have his ashes spread at this place he loved so much.  Soon, his family will be gathering at the Cape to fulfill this wish. 

A celebration of Riff’s life will be held on Saturday, September 20, 2014, at 11:00 AM at Parker United Methodist Church in Parker, Colorado.  A lunch reception will follow at the family’s home.  In lieu of flowers, the family encourages people to donate blood to support those in need.  Two of the organizations he passionately supported were Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project.  Gifts to these organizations in his honor would be greatly appreciated.

St. Jude: http://www.stjude.org

Wounded Warrior Project: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

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Memories Timeline


  1. Dear Diane, I'm so sorry to learn of Riff's passing.  I know you will miss him very much.  You are in my thoughts and prayers.



  2. Uncle Riff,

    Though it has been yearssince we have seen eachother I just wanted to thank you for all the memories and good times we were able to share.

    Aunt Diane, Jeffery, Rick and Steve….. my thoughts and blessings to all of you and extended family, and please know you are in my thoughts and prayers

  3. It was a pleasure getting to know Riff better when we all together on the Cape. I know Stephanie and I enjoyed talking with him and learning more about the Manning clan. I'm very sorry for your loss.

  4. Diane … I was so sorry to hear about Riff.  I know how difficult it is to lose your soul mate.  Sending positive thoughts and healing energy your way.  Thinking of you,

    Mary Ann

  5. Diane,

    Thank you so much for letting me know of Riff's passing.  He was one of a kind and will remain one of my favorite people.  It was truly a privilege to work with him and I'm grateful for the opportunity to banter with him, and "give it right back".  I always scheduled extra time with Riff so we could have our deep discussions while I "tortured" him.  I will definitely miss him.

  6. Diane and Family,

    So sorry for your loss.  I so enjoyed reading the obituary that captured the richness of his life.  I hope you can find both peace and joy in those memories.  


  7. Riff, dear friend,

    So much laughter and fun!

    Thank you for sharing your generous and loving spirit with each of us.  You will always have a special place in our hearts.

  8. Our deepest condolences to you all.  What a rich and wonderful life Riff lived.  He touched so many with his warmth, kindness and humor.  We are glad to  have gotten to know him and will fondly remember seeing him each summer at the beach. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Warmly, Angela and Dennis M.

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