Aug. 4, 1924 – Dec. 25, 2018
On Christmas evening, Dec. 25, 2018, Cleo Vera Groves Riley was able to dance once again with her sweetheart of 62 years, Ferrel. That was what she wanted to do when she was no longer burdened by her earthly pains. The warm welcome that awaited her included parents, a sister, brother, aunts, uncles, and many cousins who were close companions as she was growing up.
Cleo was born on Aug. 4, 1924, in Bingham Canyon, Utah, a town that no longer exists due to the expansion of the world’s largest open pit copper mine that now covers the once-thriving community of 5,000 people. She graduated from Bingham High School as valedictorian and went to Hill Air Force Base in Ogden to work as a teletype operator. Meeting two girls from Lyman, Wyo., there changed her life. They talked her into going to the University of Wyoming with them, and she met Ferrel Hopkin Riley from Burlington, Wyo. They were married June 19, 1946 at her parents’ home in Copperton, Utah. This was when the city girl did her best to become a country girl, albeit a very classy one. She also became the consummate educator, teaching hundreds of students in her 24 years in Burlington, Emblem and Basin in elementary, home economics and art classes. She also taught night adult classes for Northwest Community College for 20 years, and was a teacher trainer for Brigham Young University and the University of Wyoming. Cleo was president of the Wyoming Home Economics Association, and served on the Wyoming Education Classroom Teachers Executive Board.
In 1955 Cleo was invited to membership in Delta Kappa Gamma International, an organization for key women educators. During her 63-year membership, she held every office at the local and state level also serving on several international committees. She received numerous awards and was so proud of her service in Delta Kappa Gamma.
Cleo taught in a much more personal way for Big Horn County. She devoted 35 years to the 4-H program helping young 4-Hers learn to sew, how to cook, how to can, and how to prepare for 4-H demonstrations.
After years of teaching, Cleo changed course and started working at the county courthouse. Being deputy county clerk was a delightful challenge and she knew the vault records inside and out after her 27 years working there, and worked for a title company doing title searches after her retirement. She did not like that R word.
Through her life, Cleo loved to travel. Her conventions gave her immersive opportunities to enjoy people and places all over the United States and Canada. She made friends with so many women who kept in touch over the years. She was a citizen ambassador to Russia and China, and also traveled to Egypt, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Eastern Europe and the U.K. She was always up for a good adventure.
Her greatest joys were family, associating with the good people of Burlington and her membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served unselfishly in many positions over the years but loved being the Teacher Trainer most of all.
She is survived by her children: Mike (Paula) Riley, Burlington; Michelle (Bob) Underwood, Pleasant Grove, Utah; sister, Lois (Theron) Hickman, South Jordan, Utah; brothers, Lynn Groves, Fruit Heights, Utah, Rex Groves, South Jordan, Utah; five grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a sister, Audrey, and two sisters-in-law, ReNae and Mary Lou.
Funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, at Burlington Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family and Friends may gather starting at 9:15 prior to services. Interment will follow in the Burlington Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Big Horn County 4-H Leader Council ℅Bryant Funeral Home, P.O. Box 524, Worland, WY 82401. Online condolences may be made at www.bryantfuneralhomeonline.com.