Memorable Manitobans: William Pitt Riley (1870-1954)
Born at Bloomington, Wisconsin on 23 February 1870, he was educated at public and high schools in Iowa and at Cornel College (Iowa). In 1890, he went into business in Minneapolis then, two years later, he went into the wholesale grocery field. He worked for various grocery businesses in North Dakota and Minnesota before coming to Canada in 1906 to organize the wholesale grocery firm of Riley-Ramsay Company at Port Arthur, Ontario. In 1913, he sold the business to A. Macdonald Company and became President and General Manager of the merged company which, in 1918, became Western Grocers Limited, a wholesale fruit and grocery business with branches throughout western Canada.
Riley was also active with several other large companies, including the Great-West Life Assurance Company, of which he was President from 1943 to 1951. He was Director of the company for 22 years before his election as President. He was a Director of the Canadian Bank of Commerce; President and Director of Gateway Grocers Limited at Fort William, Ontario; a member of the Advisory Board of the Winnipeg office for the Toronto General Trusts Corporation, a Director of H. H. Cooper Limited and of Monarch Lumber Company. He was also owner and President of Nash, Simington and Company [later known as Dominion Fruit Company] which he took over in 1932. He retired from business in 1952.
He was married twice, first to Josephine Riley (1869-1920) with whom he had two children: Richard Chamberlain Riley (1900-1952, father of William Pitt Riley) and Florence Riley (1903-?). His daughter subsequently married Edwin Secord Cooper (c1903-1975), a son of his second wife, Adele Elizabeth Tooley (1876-1960). He was a member of the Manitoba Club, Winnipeg Winter Club, St. Charles Country Club, and the Masons (Blue Lodge Preceptory and Shriners). He served as a city councillor in Port Arthur for two years while residing there.
He died at his Winnipeg home, 603 Wellington Crescent, on 14 May 1954 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Death registration [Josephine Riley], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Body of Mrs. W. P. Riley is found in river,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 May 1920, page 1.
“Miss Florence Riley,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 May 1930, page 15.
“R. C. Riley, executive dies at 52,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 April 1952, page 14.
“Jewel chain taken over by Shop Easy,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 June 1952, page 9.
“W. P. Riley, business leader, dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 May 1954, page 1.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 15 May 1954, page 30.
Obituary [Adele Elizabeth Riley], Winnipeg Free Press, 12 April 1960, page 6.
Death registration [Adele Elizabeth Riley], British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Obituary [Edwin Secord Cooper], Winnipeg Free Press, 8 February 1975, page 45.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 26 January 2021