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Industry Mourns Loss of Art Riedel

Arthur “Art” Riedel
December 25, 1930–February 25, 2016

Arthur “Art” Riedel 85 passed away peacefully February 25, 2016 at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Portland after a lengthy stay and a courageous battle fighting the side effects from radiation therapy for prostate cancer 25 years ago.

Art was born in Portland, Oregon and arrived on Christmas Day, a special gift to his parents Arthur and Olive Riedel, Sr. His sister Olive had arrived thirteen months earlier and together they attended Kenton Grade School and Jefferson High School in Portland. Always a straight A student, Art credited a high school coach in encouraging him to apply for a navy scholarship. Having to list four colleges he chose, University of Washington because he liked their fight song, Portland University where his sister attended, Stanford because it was the most prestigious, and Oregon State. He was accepted to all four and chose Stanford.

Attending Stanford changed his life and he came home in 1953 after studying civil engineering. He hadn’t planned on coming back to Portland, but his father had recently been diagnosed with colon cancer and needed Art’s help with a “dinky” little tug and barge company, Willamette Tug and Barge, where he owned a third interest. As a kid, Art learned much from his father, following him on the jobs like a shadow. The company had branched out into dredging sand and gravel, and after Art’s return he convinced his father to let him run it along with the concrete division. After his father’s death four years later, he talked the two partners into making him president of Willamette Tug and Barge. At the age of 26 he was on his way.

Over the years the company grew and branched into marine construction. Eventually he bought out his father’s silent partners and changed the name from Willamette Western Inc. to Riedel International, Inc. to reflect his ownership and the increasing business overseas. Seeing the company’s trucks and ready-mix concrete haulers around the Portland metro area, you couldn’t miss the sign on the bumper, “Watch That Child” and it made you think. The company built the I-205 bridge spanning the Columbia River; built the approaches on the Fremont bridge spanning the Willamette river; major work on most of the bridges in Portland; the Trident missile base in Bangor, Washington; and many other construction jobs in the western states. Away from the west coast, Wake Island in the Pacific was a big job with erosion control and rebuilding the refueling system and runway for the military. The international work took the company to Brazil, dredging the Paranau river for construction of the Itaipu dam; work in Taiwan; setting the north sea oil platforms in England; dredging the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq; in Canada, building the coal terminal at Prince Rupert and numerous dredging jobs with the Canadian dredging company he had purchased. Probably the most exciting dredging contract was with the Corp of Engineers when Mt. St. Helen’s blew her top and the company had fourteen dredges on the rivers clearing the shipping lanes. Art’s brightly painted tugs could be seen on the Willamette and Columbia rivers and San Francisco Bay where they helped with ship assist; there was even one in a Kellogg’s Raisin Bran commercial, they were so colorful. His ocean going tugs plowed up and down the west coast and to Hawaii.

Such an exciting life. He liked to say he never worked a day in his life because he loved what he was doing. He enticed the very best people to work for the company and in his mind they were never employees, but “Team Members” long before this became a popular phrase.

Philanthropically, the corporate entertainment boat “Friendship” (an ex coast guard cutter) was donated to groups to raise money for kids’ programs. The boat saw a lot of action during the summer months up and down the Willamette river with many happy party-goers raising money for a good cause. Art supported the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, the American Cancer Society, the Oregon Maritime Museum, and others too numerous to mention. He was a life trustee of Lewis and Clark College and a member of the President’s Circle at Portland State University. He was a great believer in community colleges, and in particular, Tillamook Bay Community College. He served on the board of the Port of Portland and later the Port of Tillamook Bay and other private boards. He was honorary consul for the Netherlands and served as dean of the Oregon Consular Corps in 1995.

In 1987 Art and Janet were married, and later, after Art underwent surgery for cancer, he decided it was time to start slowing down. He and Janet have spent the years since dividing their time between their part of paradise on Netarts Bay, Portland, and the desert.

Art was a force to be reckoned with. He questioned everything, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and never gave up. He will be greatly missed by many. Art was predeceased by his beloved sister Olive four months ago. He leaves behind his loving family: wife Janet Riedel; son Jim Riedel; daughter Christina Semerad; step-daughter Lesley Broyles and husband Jeff; grandchildren James and Taylor Riedel; Samantha Songer; Cassidy Semerad; Elena, Sam, and Jake Broyles; niece Gretchen Morehouse; and nephews John, Jim, Jeff, and Hank Harder.

A celebration of Art’s life will be held at the University Club in Portland on Sunday March 20. at 12 noon. Friends, business associates, and “Team Riedel” aka “The Over the Hill Gang” are invited to attend.

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