Longtime Jackson resident Richard “Dick” J. Reilly Jr. died from complications of heart disease at his home on Spring Hollow Ranch in Tetonia, Idaho. His loving wife of 62 years, Gail, cared for him to his final moments. He was 84.
His family provided the following.
Starting in 1973, Dick owned Rising Sage, the large part of the East Gros Ventre butte, which housed a KOA campground, general stores, gas stations, a fast food restaurant and a pizza parlor. The most popular feature was the region’s only indoor pool, where Dick hosted a free community swim night and invited school groups to use the pool at will. When he sold the property it became the renowned National Museum of Wildlife Art.
Dick was an accomplished entrepreneur. He invented the aluminum platform tennis court. He founded R.J. Reilly Platform Tennis Courts, building courts in 40 states and 16 countries. He was inducted into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame in 1974.
He brought platform tennis to Jackson Hole when he ran a residential platform tennis camp on three paddle courts he installed at the base of Snow King from 1999 to 2013. Each autumn, players would come to improve their skills with top pros while reveling in all Jackson Hole has to offer when the aspens are turning gold and the elk are bugling.
Dick and Gail were beloved parishioners at Our Lady of the Mountains and attended daily Mass there for many years.
Dick grew up in Scarsdale, New York. In 1957 he graduated from Dartmouth College, where he rowed crew, played football and pole vaulted for the track team. He later attended Columbia University Business School, where he also earned a master’s degree in public health.
Dick married his hometown sweetheart, Gail Apgar, and they raised their family in South Salem, New York. The octagonal house he designed and built on a small lake there, complete with a 250-gallon fish tank, round central fireplace and paddle court provided an idyllic childhood for his family.
His first jobs of high school teaching and self-taught home building led to the founding of his platform tennis court company. His passion for mentoring young people never left him. He revived the Boy Scouts program in Northern Westchester, started the local youth football program and revived the football program at nearby Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, where he coached and was the business manager for two years.
Way ahead of Title IX he started a girls tackle football program when his daughter was in seventh grade.
During a reprieve from the platform tennis court business, Dick worked for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York and focused on improving the health and lives of folks in the Appalachian region of Mississippi.
Dick first brought platform tennis to the northern Rockies with a combination paddle camp and dude ranch near Glacier National Park in Montana. Not one to shy away from, well, anything, Dick taught himself “natural horsemanship” before “horse whisperer” was a household word. He happily discarded his tie for a cowboy hat and, in addition to playing ranch host, became known for his gentle way with the horses when he wasn’t tending to his prolific flower and vegetable gardens.
After the summer dudes left, Dick hosted an annual platform tennis tournament, the Grizzly Affair, and ran a platform tennis camp in the fall, with players coming from all over the country to improve their game with the sport’s top pros.
After 12 years in Montana, Dick and Gail moved the paddle camp to their favorite part of the world, the Tetons. They ran their Jackson Hole instructional enterprise until 2013, leaving many avid paddle players around the country wanting more.
Dick included his four children in his love for the outdoors. He started them as toddlers in the Northeast with hikes up Mount Washington and Mount Moosilauke, multiday canoe trips in the Canadian wilderness and camping adventures in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River.
When the youngest was 8, he deemed them ready for backpacking trips in the Tetons. His children have many fond memories of those family trips. They recall being led as young children on a bushwhacking expedition out of Death Canyon into the Alaska Basin because Fox Creek Pass was impassable, arriving to glissade into the snow-covered basin just as the sun was setting. Watching their father stand his ground and call the bluff of a charging bear and snuggling into backcountry tents while he slept in his snow quinzee hut were other fond recollections. In turn, all of the family attribute their love of Jackson Hole, mountain adventures and the outdoors to their maverick father.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard J. Reilly and Helen (Meyn) Reilly.
He is survived by Gail and his devoted children — Tammy (Dan) Newton, of Kalispell, Montana; Jim (Karen), of Darien, Connecticut; Kathy (Mark) Gross, of Jackson; and Janet (Andy) Hawkes, of Boulder, Colorado. He leaves behind 10 adoring grandchildren, Danielle, Caroline, Bridget, Charlotte, Patrick, Tyler, Kevin, Ali, Bo and Taylor, and three great-grandchildren. He is also preceded in death by his sister, Norine Toole, and brother Alby.
Dick’s faith in God and strong values were a huge part of who he was. His sincere interest in the life story of almost everyone he met, his desire to share his passions with others and his boyish charm and good looks left a lasting and endearing impression on the many varieties of people he encountered throughout his life. Our world feels a little less colorful without him.
His family will announce a memorial Mass and celebration of life at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to the Jenny Lake Rangers Fund c/o Grand Teton National Park Foundation, P.O. Box 249, Moose, WY 83012 or at JennyLakeRangers.org, or the Teton Valley Community Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 1507, Driggs, Idaho 83422 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.