Paul Steven Riddle’s service to the Bass Islands is captured by life coach Jill Korstrom’s definition of legacy: “Legacy is when you are genuinely grounded in offering yourself and making a meaningful, lasting and energizing contribution to humanity by serving a cause greater than your own.” Mr. Riddle devoted forty years to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, rising to the rank of State Park Manager; and he served the Put-in-Bay Police Department as Patrolman (1975), Lieutenant (1982) and Chief (2015-2020).
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, on 10 March 1954, Mr. Riddle’s parents and five siblings moved from Michigan to Middle Bass Island when he was three years old. He attended a one-room school until entering high school at Put-in-Bay. In a January 2021 interview, Mr. Riddle describes his adolescence this way:
“Growing up on the Island of Middle Bass was the vessel that shaped my life; it has carried me to where I am at this time. Living at Middle Bass was like living in the country. It is where I learned that you help everyone no matter what. My life was shaped the most by my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Schneider. She introduced God into my life and that was a wonderful thing to me.” It should be noted the Mrs. Schneider referenced is Sonny Schneider and Mary Anne McCann’s mother.
Chief Riddle worked for Fox Construction as an equipment operator after high school and then became a full-time ODNR State Fish Hatchery Aid while working as a part time patrolman for the PiB Police Department. In 1978 he was promoted to Fishery Supervisor, then to Fish Hatchery Superintendent in 1980. These years included significant training in computer technology, hatchery management, firearms training, Ohio Peace Officer Training, and criminal justice–followed in the nineties and 2000’s by extensive courses in law enforcement, ethics, hazardous materials, case law, and crisis management. In all of these commendable efforts Chief Riddle earned high praise and commendations.
Governor Voinovich (L), presents State Employee of Month Award
In 1980 the Put-in-Bay Police Department recognized him for Meritorious Service after he contributed over 300 hours of unpaid service to the community. In March 1987 he was promoted to ODNR Park Ranger Manager, Division of Parks. In this capacity Mr. Riddle wrote management plans for five parks, including separate shoreline management plans, responsibility for income and budgets, and day-to-day operations. ODNR awarded him “Employee of the Month” in 1991, stating “Riddle has exhibited a dedication to his managerial responsibilities far above what is considered his expected job duties.” January 1992 he was acknowledged by Ohio House District #70 representative Fred H. Deering, Speaker Vern Riffe, and Governor George V. Voinovich in this way: “You are held in high regard by those with whom you have worked for the enthusiasm and dedication which you have displayed in all your endeavors, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have set an example in your work that is worthy of emulation by all.”
Lifesaving Award recipients Dale Danheiser (C-L) and Steve Riddle (C-R)
In 2006 Mr. Riddle was honored with the Lifesaving Recognition Award by the Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation “for your quick response and rescue of two children and three adults on 28 May 2005.”
Mr. Riddle’s personal life, as is the case for many, included challenges in marriage. Of his divorce he said, “Going through divorce was not easy, but God was with me. I kept in mind what was good for my children. That meant never disrespecting their mother and making things work.” He added, “Meeting my new wife Karen was one of the best moments. Karen and her family were solid, by which I mean they believed in God and were good, plain and simple people who put on no show of trying to act like someone they were not.”
The tumult of divorce did not hamper Chief Riddle’s outreach. He was a guest speaker at the Marblehead Peninsula Lions Club; elected to serve twelve years on the Put-in-Bay School Board, during which he received recognition “for outstanding dedication to public education”; and he participated in the governing of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church as Vestry Member for six years. In a poem written for her father’s 35thbirthday, Suzanne Marie wrote, “You have provided the soil for me to construct the paths of my life. You have always provided the richest and softest of soils . . . You have made me very confident . . You have made me strong in my ways . . . there has never been a time when you were not there for me.” Mr. Riddle supported his son Andrew Clay’s successful effort to become “the island’s first Eagle Scout and perhaps the only Lone Scout in northwest Ohio ever to attain that rank,” according to a Toledo Blade article of 25 April 2004.
A major factor in Mr. Riddle’s personal and professional success is grounded in his faith. He said, ” God has always been in my life. Karen, Andrew, Miranda, and I were all baptized by Father Hayes at the same time in the Episcopal Church here on the Island. The place I visited that impressed me the most was the Vatican. I still have a cross that was blessed by the Pope hanging next to my bed. You have to respect people’s rights because you have the right as an officer to take them away. You have to be kind and always do the right thing.”
Photo by W.H. “Chip” Gross, courtesy of Ohio Cooperative Living Magazine
In retirement, Chief Riddle feels blessed to have more time to spend with his family–to be with his grandchildren, to go fishing, to stay active. He considers writing a book about growing up on the Bass Islands, working in law enforcement, and about local politics.
When asked what matters most to him now, after years of dedicated hours to his professional life, Mr. Riddle replied, “Keeping God foremost in my life will always be first. I am proud of my children and lucky to be married to Karen. Being kind to people who visited the Island and taking time for them to make their visit enjoyable was a priority. I learned that having a title or rank does not give you respect, you have to earn it. My children and the kind of people they are defines me. My marriage to Karen is solid–we believe in the same things, we have worked hard to take care of our family, we like being with each other and sharing activities, so I look forward to spending more time with her.”
A life well lived leaves a lasting impression, a true legacy for family, friends, and community to treasure. Paul Steven Riddle exemplifies good character, personal motivation, perseverance, and professionalism. Acclamation and honor are yours Chief Riddle, and for all who uphold qualities which generate a meaningful legacy!