He was born on March 2, 1940 to Waldo and Marie Ely in Munising, Michigan. Dick graduated from William G. Mather High School, Munising, MI in 1958 and attended Northern Michigan University and Muskegon School of Business. He served in the United States National Guard for two years. He was united in marriage to Mary Dieckhoff in Neenah, Wisconsin on December 4, 1971.
Dick was a born “entrepreneur.” His life, from early on, was spent in the field of sales. He started at age 10 offering potatoes for sale door-to-door for a farmer. He would knock on the door, and say, “You don’t want to buy any potatoes, do you?” After making some serious changes in his sales pitch, he founded several businesses along with his wife, Mary. He also had help from many wonderful people whom were always like family to him. After selling Cutco to his family and friends, he worked in sales for Findley Adhesives (Milwaukee, WI) for twelve and one-half years before making the decision to start his own adhesive manufacturing business. That was when he founded Valley Adhesives & Coatings Corporation in Appleton, WI in 1977. While still operating Valley Adhesives, and after receiving a patent on his “Quik Mask” product, he founded Aqua tec Coatings Corporation, also in Appleton, WI. Valley Adhesives & Coatings Corporation was sold in 1996 to Ellsworth Adhesives and Aqua tec Coatings Corporation was sold to 3M in 2001. For several years, while operating his two businesses in Appleton, he also owned a logging company in Upper Michigan. The family thanks all of the employees and their families who helped to make the businesses successful throughout the years.
During his years in business, Dick was a member of, and held offices in TAPPI, the Adhesives Manufacturers Association (AMA), and The Alternative Board. In 1984, he was named the Small Business Person of the Year in Manufacturing by the Appleton Chamber of Commerce. In 1986, he was elected as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business, which gave him the wonderful opportunity of spending a week in Washington, D. C. with business people and politicians, including speakers Bob and Elizabeth Dole; that was an honor that got him a letter from President Ronald Reagan. He was also a member of the Medina-Dale-Readfield Lions Club for many years, served as President, and helped build the park shelter in Readfield.
Dick was always an avid hunter, and enjoyed fishing, as well. His wife helped him develop his sports enthusiasm for the Green Packers, of course. In 1997, he had the thrill of attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In his years of retirement from his businesses, he spent 19 winters in Mesa, Arizona, and made many summer visits to his cabin on Nevins Lake in the U. P. He also dabbled in real estate investments, and took-on the hobby of buying and selling Mercedes. During the summers of 2004 and 2005, he developed Pinehurst Ranch subdivision along with the help of his son, Christopher Ely. In his spare time, he kept himself busy delivering loads of sand and soil to friends and neighbors. Dick also enjoyed photography and astronomy, and was a member and ‘President’ of the Photography Club at Monte Vista Village in Mesa, Arizona. He loved sharing the views of the universe through his telescope with many friends and neighbors. In his last years in Arizona, he became interested in turning items on the wood lathe, and created many beautiful finished pieces there and at home in Wisconsin.
Richard is survived by his loving wife, Mary, of 45 years; daughters, Jodi Nelc and Michelle Townsend of Neenah; sons, Michael (Lisa) Townsend of Appleton and Christopher Ely of Trenary, MI; grandchildren: Nicholas Davis of Freedom, Melissa (Michael) Van der Burgt of Little Chute, Brady and Dylan Townsend of Appleton, McKenna and Emily Ely of New London, and Kyle Ely of Trenary, MI; great-grandchildren: Landon, Matilda and Maddox Davis, Mason and Madden Van der Burgt, and Maxwell and Hunter Frank. He is also survived by brothers: Francis Ely of Shingleton, MI, Gerald (Bonnie) Ely of Negaunee, MI, John (Linda) Ely of Shingleton, MI; sisters: Maxine (Donald) Thomas of Shingleton, MI, Nancy Ely of Munising, MI, and Delrose (Terry) Kovarik of Green Bay; brother-in-law, James (Mary) Dieckhoff of Sarasota, FL; and sister-in-law, Nancy (Grover) Cowling of Neenah; and many nieces and nephews. Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Waldo and Marie (Bergeron) Ely; brothers, Joseph Ely and Paul Ely, and granddaughter, Victoria Davis Nelc Frank.
Funeral services will be held at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in New London on Saturday, January 7, 2017, with visitation from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. and a Catholic mass by Pastor John Kleinschmidt at 11 a.m. A luncheon will be held at the church following the mass. Entombment will take place in Highland Memorial Park Mausoleum, 3131 N. Richmond St., Appleton, WI. Cline & Hanson Funeral Home is assisting the family. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be directed to the Alzheimer’s Association in Richard Ely’s name.
Richard Ely’s family would like to extend a warm thank you to St. Paul’s of Kaukauna.