R. Jeffrey Riotte died peacefully at home on Feb. 21, 2016, four months shy of his 70th birthday, from cancer.
Jeff grew up in Montclair, N.J. He was the son of Francena and Robert Riotte. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1968, and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst shortly thereafter. Jeff began his career with the Merrimack Valley Regional Planning Commission. He then joined WEB Engineering and Leak Detection Systems on the South Shore of Massachusetts, where he worked for 30 years.
Jeff first vacationed with his family in West Tisbury when he was 2 years old. His passion for tennis led his family to East Chop and the East Chop Tennis Club. Jeff was a perennial winner of summer tournaments, and was an accomplished ECTC tennis pro in the 1960s.
Jeff earned varsity letters at Montclair High School for bowling and tennis, and captained the men’s tennis team at Middlebury College. In 1969 he pitched the East Chop Brewers to the league championship. He took up golf in the 1990s, and always jumped at any opportunity to hit the links. Jeff was a longtime fan of Boston sports teams. Most recently he developed a fondness for watching golf, particularly the Masters as a proper rite of spring. Jeff also spent many quiet hours casting a lure from his rock at the base of the of the East Chop bluff.
Jeff’s passions extended beyond sports; he was an excellent musician who was a skilled pianist, guitarist, and vocalist. In the mid-’90s he channeled his musical acumen into the harmonica. He played his harmonica at gigs at the Ritz in Oak Bluffs, a variety of venues in Boston and the South Shore, and at impromptu concerts for his adoring fans. Jeff cherished the fun times he had with his two granddaughters, Penelope and Eleanor Riotte. He was an avid reader who became an authority on the Civil War, American presidents, and Lewis and Clark. Jeff had extensive knowledge of Vineyard history, and was known for his ability to identify many birds by either sight or song.
Jeff is survived by his wife of 41 years, Christina Riotte of East Chop; his son Sam Riotte and his wife Liz of Cumberland, Maine; his son Toby Riotte and his girlfriend Clare of San Francisco, Calif.; and two granddaughters. He is also survived by his sister Carol Hyler of Parker, Colo. He was predeceased by his brother Wyndham Riotte, of Fernandina Beach, Fla.
The Riotte family would like to extend their appreciation for the care and loving treatment Jeff received at Hope Lodge in Boston and the Infusion Center at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, with particular thanks to Walter and Stacey, and to the caregivers at Hope Hospice, especially Chantale.
With the death of Jeff Riotte, East Chop has lost one of its most beloved and respected residents. Whether he was leading the Fourth of July parade around East Chop, sitting on his porch watching birds visit his feeders, listening to his favorite Beach Boys tunes, wearing one of his comical and clever T shirts, sharing laughs on Friday night at the Ocean View, or walking his dogs around the Chop, Jeffie left an indelible mark on us all.
There will be a memorial service for Jeff on June 25, 2016, from 5:30 pm to 7 pm at the East Chop Tennis Club on Martha’s Vineyard. Memorial contributions may be made to the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group at P.O. Box 2214, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 (mvcancersupport.org).