Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – The Lebanon Valley racing family lost two of its members on Friday with the passing of longtime LVS employee Robert “Bobby” Waters and former Sportsman competitor Eddie Riiska, and I personally lost two people I have called friends.
I first met Bobby when I raced ATV’s at Lebanon on Wednesday nights. Bobby, along with his wife at the time, Louise, brought their daughter to the track with them. They use to bring her over to our pit area to visit with us and I remember them putting her sitting on my machine. She had a huge smile on her face…all the while her parents were standing off to the side watching.
One memory I will keep in my mind forever is all the conversations Bobby and I have had over the years at the Valley’s banquets. He always had a way to make me laugh with some sort of ‘off-color’ joke, but then would speak from the heart as he asked how my parents were. He was extremely genuine and one person that I’m sure all who have ever been in the pits at LVS have seen and will surely miss. Rest easy Mr. Waters.
Ed Riiska was someone I grew up watching when the Valley started the “Sportsman” class back in the late 80’s. Then, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rub wheels with him as a competitor in the last in the mid to late 90’s.
Eddie was as tough as they come when he strapped in behind the wheel, but always ran you clean. I had many a battle with him and, even to this day, I can’t remember either of us ever putting a wheel on each other.
During that time, the Sportsman had the opportunity to either run a McCreary spec track tire (American Racer) or a Goodyear, and Eddie lived on those Goodyear’s. He did everything to make them work. Some nights they did…others, not so much, but he was dedicated to them. I can still see that gold eagle on his hat in my mind right now.
Even with the fun we had on track, the part I will remember the most about Eddie is his advice. He was wealth of knowledge and would have no problem distributing it. It was common for him to come up behind me at a drivers meeting and tap me on the back. He would then give me advice on how I could get through the corners better based on the two laps he followed me in hot laps. This is where he reminded me a lot of Jimmy Langenback. Jimmy wanted to beat you, but wanted to knowing you had a good car when he did. Eddie was just like that.
These two gentlemen have left their mark on the racing community at Lebanon Valley and I guess that’s all most of us can hope to do. They will truly be missed and from all of us at RPW, our deepest heartfelt condolences to their families and friends during this difficult time.
Let us smile at the memories they gave us and remember all they brought to our lives. God Speed Bobby and Eddie!