The moniker Riley Cove can now be etched onto Washington maps.
During its Jan. 4 meeting, the Washington State Board of Natural Resources unanimously approved to name an approximately 60-acre bay on the northern coast of Mercer Island after decorated World War II veteran Huston “Hu” Riley. The lifelong Island resident, who died at the age of 90 in 2011, was immortalized as “the soldier in the surf” in Robert Capa’s Life magazine cover photo of the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944 at Omaha Beach.
On Oct. 26, 2021, the state Committee on Geographic Names approved the final Riley Cove proposal and put it on the Board of Natural Resources’ docket to approve the recommendation. Next up, the name will be added to the Washington Administrative Code and forwarded to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal review, according to a press release.
“We think this is a wonderful tribute to a pioneering Mercer Island family and are only saddened that this naming did not happen in our parents’ lifetime,” said Riley’s daughter, Erin E. Riley Borden, PhD, whose brother, Padraic, still resides on the Island.
Borden said that her father lived in the same house at 7436 N. Mercer Way his entire life. The abode, which Riley’s father built in 1914 and looks onto the cove, stayed in the family until Riley’s wife, Charlotte, passed away in 2018. It was sold in August of that year.
“He lived through the depression, fought in WWII, ran a successful business, raised a family and remained a modest man with a wonderful sense of humor and generous spirit,” said Borden of her father, who married Charlotte in 1948.
Rob MacAulay said in Reporter story last October that it has taken two applications and 12 years for his group to advance this far in the Riley Cove naming process.
Group member Jane Meyer Brahm discussed what the board’s approval means to her and others involved with this endeavor.
“I can speak for myself and the Mercer Island Historical Society board when I say how pleased we are that the north-end cove where ‘Hu’ Riley spent nearly all of his (90) years will be named Riley Cove in his honor,” she said. “He was not only a longtime and active member of the Mercer Island Historical Society and a member of the VFW Post 5760, he was true World War II hero, having earned three Purple Hearts.”
King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, whose District 6 includes Mercer Island, issued a letter of support for the naming of Riley Cove to the state Committee on Geographic Names last September. The letter was included in a Riley Cove packet on the state Department of Natural Resources’ website.
She wrote, in part: “There is strong community support among the local residents on the cove and throughout Mercer Island for naming the cove after Mr. Riley as demonstrated by the community-led proposal and advocacy for this name.”