Richard J. Reilly Jr.
Platform Tennis Trailblazer
Platform tennis (“paddle”) court innovator, outdoor enthusiast and entrepreneur, Richard
J. (“Dick”) Reilly Jr. 84 passed away from complications of heart disease at his home in
Teton County, Idaho. His loving wife of 62 years, Gail (Apgar) cared for him to his final
Inventor of the aluminum platform tennis (“paddle”) court and founder of R.J. Reilly Jr.,
Inc., Dick revolutionized the game. His myriad engineering improvements enabled
outdoor play throughout dark and snowy winters. Dick led the sport’s expansion from
Westchester County, NY in the early 1960s, building courts in 40 US states and 16
countries, producing instructional videos, operating platform tennis camps in Montana
and Wyoming and much more until the sale of his company in 2002. He was inducted
into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame in 1974 when he was only 39.
Dick grew up in Scarsdale, NY and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1957 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 Masters in Public
Health. Dick married his hometown sweetheart Gail Apgar and raised their family in
South Salem, NY. The octaganol home he designed and built on a small lake there,
complete with a 250 gallon fish tank, circular fireplace, and paddle court, provided an
idyllic childhood for his children.
His passion for mentoring young people never left him. He revived the Boy Scouts
program in Northern Westchester, started and coached the local youth football program
and revived the football program at nearby Wooster School in Danbury, CT 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.
A visionary by nature, another interlude in the 1970s found him as the owner of a
beautiful parcel of land at the foot of the Tetons in Wyoming which included an
overbooked KOA campground, the region’s only popular indoor pool, two general stores
and gas stations, a fast food restaurant and pizza parlor. He eventually sold the
property and it now houses the renowned National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson,
Dick first brought platform tennis to the northern Rockies with a combination paddle
camp and dude ranch near Glacier National Park in MT. Not one to shy away from, well
anything, Dick taught himself “natural horsemanship” before the 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 twelve 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 Moosilauke, multi-day canoe trips
in the Canadian wilderness, and camping adventures in the Thousand Islands of the St.
Lawrence River. When the youngest was eight, he deemed them ready for
backpacking trips in the Tetons. 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
quinzhee hut are some of many fond recollections. In turn, all of the family attribute
their love of Jackson Hole, mountain adventures and the outdoors to their maverick
Preceded in death by his parents Richard J. Reilly and Helen (Meyn) Reilly, he is
survived by Gail, his four devoted children Tammy (Dan Newton) of Kalispell, MT, Jim
(Karen) of Darien, CT, Kathy (Mark Gross) of Jackson, WY and Janet (Andy Hawkes) of
Boulder, CO. He leaves ten 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, desire to share his passions with others and his boyish
charm and good looks left a lasting and endearing impression on the many variety of
people he encountered throughout his life. Our world feels a little less colorful without
A memorial mass and celebration of life will be announced by his family at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to Jenny Lake Rangers Fund
c/o Grand Teton National Park Foundation, PO Box 249, Moose, WY 83012
(jennylakerangers.org) or Teton Valley Community Animal Shelter, PO Box 1507,
Driggs, Idaho 83422 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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