Gaston I "Gus" Riva
September 15, 1921 – May 7, 2019
Riva, Gaston Italo ‘Gus’ September 15, 1921 - May 7, 2019, Age 97. Gaston Italo (Gus) Riva was born to Italian immigrants Ferdinando and Anna Riva on September 15, 1921 by midwife in a small home in the little Italy area of South Omaha, Nebraska. Gaston had three brothers and five sisters, Leo, Cecil, Louis, Alvira, Alberta, Martha Tina and Tranquilla. Gus grew up near 21st and Poppleton Ave. in south Omaha helping his mother and father and spending time hanging around with other Italian boys and girls at Columbus park playing baseball or just talking and laughing. His father Ferdinando was a railroad car repair mechanic at the U.P. railroad yards in downtown Omaha. Gus attended school at Mason grade school and then attended classes at the new Technical High School which was the largest and most advanced high school west of the Mississippi when it was opened. His teachers were very impressed with his artistic talents and he won awards for his artwork in grade school and high school. Gus didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy his high school years or his summers as a teenager because his mother enrolled him is summer school classes so he would graduate from high school early and go to work to help the family. It worked. He graduated from Technical High school early at the age of 16 and went right to work to help his family. He would joke about trying to grow a moustache in high school to better fit in with the older kids he was in class with, but he never could grow one and he didn’t really fit in. While at Technical high school he was recognized for his artistic talents again and for his skills in mathematics that would serve him in his later military service and later career and interests. Gus would sometimes attend traveling vaudeville shows with his friends on Friday night with his activity card. These shows were presented in the large auditorium that was part of the new modern Technical high school. He and his friends would also sneak into the old Paramount movie theater on Farnam St. to watch movies sometimes. After graduating early from high school, he went to at the local Kirkland shoe manufacturer in Omaha with his older brothers and sisters before going to work for Wilson Packing company. He was a trained operator of a ‘Comptemeter’ which was an early version of the manual calculator which was used in many businesses at the time. He used this and other office skills such as typing and even shorthand in his early office manager jobs. These skills and talents had a definite influence on his interest in personal computers and ‘tech’ toys which gave him so much pleasure later in life. While driving in his 1936 Chevrolet (given to him by his older brother Leo) one day on Leavenworth street in Omaha in 1941, he heard the breaking news of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the car radio. He knew his life was about to change and he would often say that he remembers the exact spot he was at when the news story came on. Gaston was very patriotic and signed up for the US Marine Corps and was off to Camp Pendleton in California for his basic training. Gus had to say goodbye to his mother three times (which was very hard for him) after enlisting in Omaha because on two occasions the trains leaving for California from the train station were full of enlisted soldiers and he had to go back home. After eventually arriving at camp during basic training, the officers recognized his talents and skills in mathematics and kept him back for additional training. This was fortunate for him and his training was in Battlefield intelligence which would give him opportunities to be aboard the intelligence control ships with the officers in the Pacific and not have to storm the beaches of the islands with the other marines. Gus served as part of the 3rd Marine Amphibious group on the S.S. Mt. McKinley, S.S. Appalachian and other military intelligence ships in the south pacific as a communicator. His job was analyzing captured documents and assisting the battleships and fighter bombers in targeting the Japanese strongholds on the Islands with bombs and shells prior to US Marine troop invasions. Gus remembered the call from his older brother that his father Ferdinando had passed away while he was away at war. It made him very sad that he could not be there. Gus was twenty-one at the time. Towards the end of World War II, Gaston was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he provided training to some of the new Marine recruits. After his assignment there, he was then stationed at Camp Ritchie Maryland to obtain additional training on the US planned invasion of Japan. Camp Ritchie is where Gus met his love and beautiful future wife from Pittsburgh, PA, Margaret Puchy. After meeting each other and spending some time together on evenings and weekends, it didn’t take very long before they were married and tied the knot in a ceremony at Camp Ritchie. The war in the South Pacific ended shortly after they were married and they were both discharged and came home to Omaha, NE to start their family and find careers. Gus was discharged as a US Marine Corps Staff Sergeant. Gus and Margaret settled in South Omaha in the same neighborhood where he grew up with his brothers and sisters. He worked for Wilson packing company and the department of agriculture during this time period. His training as a ‘Comptemeter’ operator and other office skills made him valuable in the livestock offices. As his family grew the family moved from their initial home near 20th and Poppleton, to a larger home at 25th and Poppleton to stay near his Mother Anna. He used his carpentry skills and ability to add a master bedroom and bathroom to the back of the home to make more room. Even with the new addition on the house, Gus knew that he needed more room for his growing family of eight kids and moved to the new suburbs in west Omaha on 77th street. It was still farmland across the street from their new house when he moved there in the early 1960s. The new house had five bedrooms and two bathrooms and an unfinished basement. It wasn’t long before he would use his carpentry skills again and add a family room and bedroom to the basement area of the house to make room for everyone. Gus was quite a handyman, carpenter and craftsman. As Gus’ mother Anna aged, she moved in with the family who took care of here and had lived with the family up to the time of her passing in 1963. As the kids grew up and went to school, Margaret used her skills as a hairdresser and took a job in the new Brandeis beauty salon on the top floor of the store at the Crossroads mall at 72nd and Dodge. Margaret was an expert at giving perms and developed loyal customers and friends and was known lovingly as ‘Marge’. Margaret made many friends and worked there until the family moved to Cottage Grove, Minnesota. Gus continued his career in the livestock and meat packing business working for O’neil packing and Morris packing companies in Omaha. Gus was a regular at Johnny’s Café steakhouse in the Omaha Stockyards where he would take clients and businessmen to lunch. He always had a table with his name on it when he showed up because of his loyal patronage. Gus put his children into St. Ann’s and St. Margaret Mary Catholic school and he attended mass their religiously for years until moving to Minnesota. Gus’ oldest son Fred graduated from Creighton Prep and Daughter Barbara graduated from Marian high school while the other children went to Westside High School and Park High School in Cottage Grove. Gus and Margaret enjoyed going to the Aksarben horse races in the evening and the dog races at Sioux City, IA with friends on weekends. Gus and Margaret were avid Nebraska Cornhusker fans and would attend games in Lincoln and occasionally away games on the road. Gus always made sure that the family took a family vacation every year too. Gus would load up his Dodge station wagon with all eight kids, food and supplies and a huge army tent on the roof and head out to the Black Hills of South Dakota campgrounds. Gus would set up camp and Margaret would always prepare food for 8 hungry mouths on a small green camping stove. It was a miracle, but somehow, the kids never went hungry sometimes eating the fish that were caught fresh that day. All the children have wonderful memories of these vacations. Gus and Margaret watched as the kids grew and started to move out into the world on their own. The oldest son Fred was first to leave home and is a veteran of the US Marine Corps following in his father’s footsteps during the Viet Nam war. Barbara went off to California to teach at the University while the others stayed closer to Omaha. In the early 1970s, Gus accepted a new position with one of his friends at the Sunstar Foods company located in South St. Paul, Minnesota. Gus commuted back and forth on weekends from Omaha to his new job until three of the four remaining kids living at home, Mike Marty and Rita moved with Gus and Margaret to Cottage Grove, MN in 1973 to start their new lives. Gus bought a new split-level home in a growing suburb Cottage Grove south of the Twin Cities. Margaret found a job as a Hair Stylist at the local K-Mart beauty salon and started making new friends and loyal customers as soon as she showed up. The revolution of personal computers in the workplace had begun and Gus was very interested even at his age. Gus took an interest in the earliest PCs and had a room in his house that had as many as three of four computers along with printers. He would spend all his free time learning computer software programs and eventually developing software solutions to his day to day office work activities at Sunstar Foods as Office Manager. He started with the Commodore 64 using floppy discs and moved on to develop LOTUS 123 spreadsheets that helped the office to automate cost and pricing of the inventory and products. His interest in PCs and the internet and tech toys would provide him so much pleasure throughout his life and even into his last days. This love of technology was transmitted on to his son Jim who rivals Gus with his interest in tech devices and the latest software. Later at Papillion Manor he would spend many hours on his iPad learning new applications that kept his mind alert and sharp. His latest favorite was an app that was a small piano keyboard on which he would play songs for the staff who enjoyed the entertainment. Gus retired from Sunstar Foods in the mid-1980s and would work sometimes as a contractor meat inspector at the local Cold Storage facilities in South St. Paul when they needed help. After his retirement, his children would often drive to Minnesota with grandchildren to visit Gus and Margaret in Cottage Grove. Margaret would always have more than enough food prepared for her family as she was an amazing cook which spoiled Gus. Gus and Margaret would also routinely drive to Omaha to visit family for the weekend and occasionally travel to Florida, Tennessee, Chicago and San Diego sometimes to visit distant family members. Gus and Margaret’s children were eventually located all over the country. Gus’ wife Margaret was called to heaven at an early age in life after their 50th wedding anniversary leaving Gus alone in Minnesota with his son Marty and wife Linda and daughter Rita still living nearby. Gus remained in his home taking care of himself and staying involved with the Church of St. Rita during this time. He would often visit the local senior citizen center and develop new friendships while there. He would always help them with their computers and would teach some simple computer skills there also. Gus eventually moved out of his split-level home into a smaller home in a senior living community in Cottage Grove where his new one level home provided easier access and comfort for him as he aged. During his later years in Minnesota, Gus had two very special friends, Ethel and Jean. Gus enjoyed spending time with them traveling, cooking, going out to breakfast and lunch and watching the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins play. They never missed a game. Gus was so blessed to have two of his children Marty and wife Linda and Rita and partner Rich nearby to help him with all of his business, appointments and whatever needs came along and Gus was always there too whenever his children had problems or needed any help. Gus eventually moved to Papillion, NE to get the care he needed as his health degraded. He moved into the Papillion Manor where he immediately settled in there and made many new friends with the tenants and the staff. One thing for certain about Gus was his ability to carry on a conversation with anyone and his ‘knack’ at making friends with everyone along the way. At the manor, he was known as one of the veterans of foreign war and a US Marine from WW II. He was so proud of his service and would always wear his Marine Corps ball caps and shirts. He was also known as a real joker there after the staff began to understand his sense of humor. His family members would often visit him during this time enjoying meals with him, playing cribbage, watching golf and playing bingo. Gus’ family would like to thank all of the doctors, nurses and staff at Papillion Manor and Kindred Care who provided our father with such loving care and attention. We appreciate your compassion, dedication, and professionalism so much. We would like to thank Gus’ dear friends Christina, Merle, Garren, and Barbara who not only cared for him but became his best friends. We would also like to especially thank our brother Marty and wife Linda and sister Rita and friend Richard for all the extra care and help the provided for Gus during his difficult years of health challenges while living alone in Minnesota, and Mary, Greg, Joan and Craig for making Gus’ transition back to Nebraska such a great thing for all of us here. Gus is preceded in death by his parents, Ferdinando and Anna Riva, and brothers Leo Riva, Cecil Riva, Louis Riva and sisters Alvira Burke, Alberta Coronia, Martha Adamitis, Tina Devalentine, Tranquilla Buda, and wife of 57 years Margaret. Gus is survived by eight children: Ferdinando (Fred) Riva (Terry), Barbara Farnsworth (Patrick), James Riva (Shethir), Mary Mancuso (Greg), Joanne Bogers (Craig), Gaston (Mike) Riva (Regina), Martin Riva (Linda) and Rita Weaver (Rich Hubal). He also leaves behind 23 grandchildren, Jodi Buns (Andy), Nicholas Riva (Jessica) and Anthony Riva (Elise), Shannon, Christopher and Jason Farnsworth, Julie Thomas, Jennifer Woodis, Gabriel and Norah Riva, Rachel Daneff (Joe), Michelle Bowley-Briggs, Michael Bogers (Rachel), Daniel Bogers (Sarah) and Christina Bogers, Scott Riva (Jessica), Sarah Riva, Karina Barak, Chad Neihart (Angie), Molly Semlak (Andy), Sheri Clauson (Bob), Paul Hurrle and Craig Hurrle (Sara) and 29 great grandchildren: Ryan and Jessica Buns, Keaton, Alexander and Elizabeth Thomas, James Riva, Jaecee Drapal, Nolan Woodis, Ava, Joseph and Jake Daneff, Sarina Briggs, Elijah, Georgia and Ethan Bogers, Blake and Brody Bogers, Eli and Penelope Riva, Carly, Ryan, Mitchell Neihart, Jacob and Izabella Semlak, Sophie and Jack Clauson, Austin, Aubrey and Kennedy Hurrle. Gus is also survived by many nieces, nephews, family members and special friends.
- Visitation Monday, May 13, 2019
- Rosary Monday, May 13, 2019
- Funeral Mass Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Gaston I "Gus" Riva
May 11, 2019
Dad was a real jokester. He had such a clever sense of humor he could always trap you in a joke without you knowing it. I can still see the poor waitress', clerks, neighbors and the look on their face of disbelief in his latest comment and then the growing smile on his face. It took a minute but they eventually got the joke and smiled. it got to the point where the family would rather cook food at home rather than take him out to Perkins or other restaurants. But he was so clever, before you knew it you were sitting in a booth and he was asking the water to read the menu to him because he couldn't read it. He was hilarious.