Daniel John Riviera, Brooklyn born, Syracuse and Georgetown educated, brilliant Seattle litigator and, in the end, Sun Valley to the core, died peacefully at his home at the base of Bald Mountain on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. He was 89.
Dan was born on May 28, 1927, to Charles Adrian Riviera, a Native American immigrant from Mexico, and Ruth Sinclair Riviera, an Ashkenazi Jew born in New York to Eastern European immigrants.
Growing up with next to nothing in Flatbush, Dan discovered the Boy Scouts of America. He attended Scout Camp on scholarship, eventually becoming a scoutmaster. The Boy Scouts gave him a love of the outdoors and friendships he had for life.
Early tests revealed a genius IQ. That led to a scholarship to Brooklyn Technical High School, an all-boys academy founded “to inspire and challenge potential high achievers.”
Winning a forestry scholarship at Syracuse University, he completed his freshman year before serving with the Army from 1946-47. He graduated cum laude with a political science degree in 1950.
In 1952, Dan married the always energetic Ruth Staats in her hometown of Seattle, Wash. They shared a love of music, dogs and the outdoors.
Dan received his law degree from Georgetown University in 1953. In Seattle, Dan searched for a job. Seattle’s legal field was predominantly white and Dan encountered some racism along the way, but he never talked about it much. He simply put his “nose to the grindstone.”
Eventually, he was hired at an established law firm called Ashley, Foster & Pepper, earning a reputation as a fierce, eloquent and meticulous young litigator.
In 1969, Dan won a multiyear, million-dollar libel case on behalf of 20 local citizens. Described in the press as an expert litigator, Dan spoke “without the benefit of notes” in delivering brilliant closing arguments. In the emotional moments after winning, “Riviera, a handsome man of 42, turned his face to the corridor wall as photographers tried in vain to capture the open display of emotion on his face. Throughout the long and often acrimonious and always intense legalistic war he had always maintained his cool.” Not long after, the name of the firm was changed to Foster, Pepper & Riviera.
In 1971, Dan married the quick-witted Charlotte Stevens. Charlotte introduced Dan to Sun Valley. As they told it, “We came for a ski trip and left with a condo.”
As a father, he highly valued education and hard work, but could be equally light-hearted. His children remember Shakespeare at the dinner table, silly songs on the spot, lessons in skiing and driving a stick shift, always, always a love of dogs and more.
He retired to the Wood River Valley full time in 1996 with his third wife, Lee Harris. He was often seen walking with one of his beloved golden retrievers at his side. But he was not done with law.
In 1999, he represented Rusty the Collie and Buck the Mutt on a pro bono basis. Their owner, Don Caldwell, was being sued on the grounds that the dogs barked too much. The case went to trial in Blaine County. Don recalled as soon as Dan spoke, “The judge was in total awe.” The verdict: not guilty. A triumph for dogs everywhere!
Dan defied his 2015 cancer diagnosis and lived a truly wonderful last year. He met his new grandchildren, enjoyed visits from each one of his “gang,” as he forever called his kids, traveled to Washington, D.C., and was socially active enjoying the valley.
It is with deep gratitude that the family thanks Dan’s care manager, Lucy Fuller, and her team. He called them “angels.”
Dan is survived by his gang: sons, Dan Riviera, Jeffrey Riviera and Spencer Riviera; daughters, Sara Riviera Cureton, Jodi Riviera (Buchanan) and Gloria Riviera (Sciutto); his 10 grandchildren, Sean and Jamie Cureton, Nick, Sam, Payson and Piper Buchanan, Tristan, Caden and Sinclair Sciutto and Graham Riviera; and his sister, Gloria Quinones, and her daughter, Barbara Protacio.
He is deeply missed. A celebration of life is planned for later in 2017.
Donations can be made to the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley or Guide Dogs for the Blind. Please visit www.woodriverchapel.com to share a memory, photos, or stories and to light a candle.