Earl Lewis Rife (Red) 14 Nov 1919 – 20 Apr 2011 Statesman, Law Enforcement
It is difficult to be brief when writing a biography for Earl Rife. His list of notable accomplishments is extensive. “Statesman, Law Enforcement” doesn’t seem to do the man justice. A better “short list” would be as follows; Kentucky Col., WWII Army Air Force Veteran, Wood Co., Sherriff’s Deputy and Sheriff, Director of Wood Co. Juvenille Det. Cntr and Clerk of Courts, and appointed as U. S. Marshal under Pres. Reagan.
Earl Lewis (Red) Rife was born on November 14, 1919 to Minnie and George Rife. He grew up in Luckey, Ohio graduating in 1937 from Troy Luckey High School where he was class president. Red married Palma Kiel on his birthday in 1940 at the Grace Lutheran Church in Luckey. Red, as he was better known, was drafted into the US Army Air Corp. PG 2 and obtained the rank of Sergeant while in charge of the AA base security squadron, Randolph Field, Texas. It was this background that led him to a career in law enforcement of over fifty years.
Red’s oldest son was born at Randolph, Texas in May 1944. When orders came for Red to prepare to ship out during World War II, Palma returned home to Ohio with her son. After being honorably discharged on November 10, 1945, Red returned to Luckey where he worked for the Luckey Lumber Company. Harvey Helm informed Red of a position open with the Wood county Sheriff’s department. Red accepted the job with the department under Sheriff Clarence Marsh.
The Wood County Sheriff’s department at the time when Red joined the force, consisted of four deputies. The first 15 years of service for Wood County where as deputy, the last 12 years of service were as the elected county sheriff. In 29 years of service he was able to see the department grow from four to twenty nine personnel including road deputies, jail personnel and his wife Palma who was the matron. He was the first sheriff in Wood County to establish contracts with two townships in northern Wood County where dedicated officers were assigned and their salaries paid by the township. At the time, Wood County was the second county in the state of Ohio to implement this process.
After leaving the Sheriff’s office, Red assisted in developing the Wood County Juvenile Detention Center and served as its first director for four years. He was then elected Wood County Clerk of Courts and held that office for four years. After the election of Ronald Reagan in 1981, the Honorable Delbert Latta who was the Dean of the Ohio Congressional Republican delegation nominated Red to the position of United States Marshall for the Northern District of Ohio. After a thorough vetting process by the FBI, Red’s nomination was submitted by the President to the Senate where it was approved. The Northern District consists of 44 counties with offices in Cleveland, Akron and Toledo. Earl served until 1989. Even with his extensive law enforcement career, the Marshall’s Service required additional training at the Federal Law enforcement Training Center at the Glynco, GA facility.
Red enjoyed travel throughout the US and Europe where he was able to visit the grave of a family member (Thompson) at a U. S. Cemetery in France. He held various offices with Buckeye sheriff’s Association and attended many of the National Sheriff’s Association Conferences at which he became a Kentucky Colonel and Tennessee Squire.
Of course church and family were very important, as he was always ready to help in many capacities. At Grace Lutheran Church he served as council president and on other committees over the years. He and Palma delivered wheeled meals for both Wood County Hospital and the Bowling Green Senior Center. He often helped Dr. Neville take patients to the Cleveland Clinic and other medical facilities when they needed transportation.
All holidays were special but Christmas and Mother’s Day stood out as he always made sure flowers were at the Church and then taken to the cemetery as his mother Minnie died a few days before Mother’s Day in 1944.
While he lived in Bowling Green, his roots were in Luckey. As a life long member of Luckey American Legion, he always had his special events there or at the church such as their milestone anniversaries.