Longtime UMVIM volunteer
Beginning in 1993, Ed Ririe of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, served on 27 United Methodist volunteer mission teams. He loved helping people as an expression of his faith. He was serving on a team in southern Oklahoma, helping flood survivors, when he died suddenly Jan. 24, 2017.
Born in Tulsa, Ed grew up attending a United Methodist church at Redondo Beach, California —and the Smothers Brothers were among his peers in the youth group, said daughter Karen Distefano, who is Oklahoma Conference’s secretary of Global Ministries. While a single 20-something serving in the Air Force, he went to church every Sunday.
Home base for the family became Bartlesville, where Ed and wife Alice Ririe joined Oak Park UMC in the 1960s. As a parent in Bartlesville, “he always made sure us girls were in church,” Karen said.
She recalled growing up alongside the children of Vietnamese refugees whom her parents welcomed in 1975 in Bartlesville. They still keep in touch. “My sister, Katherine, and I learned a lot from him. We learned compassion for people in need, regardless of skin color, place of origin, religion, or race. We were strengthened in our faith.”
In addition to his support for Vietnamese refugees, Ririe worked with indigenous peoples in Guatemala in the 1990s and supported missionaries from China and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Karen. She adds, “He helped a young Peruvian woman attend a Methodist seminary in her country. He worked alongside other Oklahomans in times of disaster.”
A craft idea for Oak Park Church’s holiday bazaar led Ed and Alice to open a candle factory now known internationally as Keepsake Candles. Ed, who had a long career as an engineer, created the original candles. He liked to say the church bazaar project “got out of hand.”
Gary Holland, Oak Park’s treasurer, shared, “He was the tile cutter for our pretty well-known tiling team in the Oklahoma Conference. We have tiled churches in Dominican Republic and Honduras together, worked flooded homes, worked tornado areas, and construction in Mexico, Guatemala, and Chile. He was always willing to go and help those in need whether it be close by or even internationally.”
Fellow volunteer Kevin Walker, on the Oklahoma Conference Disaster Response Ministry staff and who was on the Maysville trip with Ririe when he died, adds, “He died wearing a VIM denim shirt.”
Jean Abshire, Ed’s sister, was the team leader. James Bond took her place, and the group continued its mission. Their attitude was “Ed would have wanted us to complete the job,” Walker said.
Adapted from Holly McCray, “Father’s mission legacy continues,” https://www.okumc.org/newsdetail/father-s-mission-legacy-continues-7586537