Robert Anthony Raley died peacefully Monday, June 3, 2013, at Beebe Medical Center. He was in his 80th year.
U.S. Army veteran, landscape architect, outdoorsman, entrepreneur and founder of Holly Lake Campground and Nassau Valley Vineyards, Mr. Raley lived life to its fullest.
“He was one of a kind and we were a pair,” said his wife of 57 years, Sue Graves Raley. “We didn't take anything off each other. I didn't stop him from doing what he wanted to do and he didn't stop me from doing what I wanted to do. We wouldn't have lasted otherwise. I'm happy to say that he died very peacefully.”
Mr. Raley was born in Maryland, Aug. 7, 1932. After graduating from University of Maryland with a degree in agriculture, he moved to Sussex County to take a job with Southern States. “My father had just died and my mother didn't feel comfortable being in the house in Milton without a man. Bob placed an ad in the newspaper looking for a room and she responded. He came to live with us and eventually we married in 1956,” said Sue.
Mr. Raley joined the U.S. Army and served in the veterinary corps as an inspector for food going to troops overseas. After honorable discharge, he returned to work for Southern States. The company transferred him to Kennedyville, Md. “He didn't like that,” said Sue. “That's when he returned to Sussex County for good.” For a period of time he owned and operated a gas station in Milton.
Mr. Raley purchased McNicol's Florist, with locations in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, in 1963, and began developing his talent for business. That's when he and Sue moved to Lewes where they started a family.
After he sold the McNicol's Florist businesses to Jay Windsor, Mr. Raley opened Holly Lake Campground in 1967. The campground has grown to more than 1,000 sites through the years. He went on to develop Boat Hole Marina at Love Creek, bought, subdivided and sold real estate, constructed nine chicken houses and grew chickens for several years at BAR Farms near Hollyville and became one of the first registered landscape architects in Delaware. He cultivated and sold alfalfa hay and what he didn't sell he fed to his own beef cattle which was another business.
Along with his daughter Peggy, Mr. Raley established Delaware's first commercial winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards. The winery flourished as a family business to include his other daughter, Susan R. Hopkins. In the past couple of years he fattened hogs on acorns that fell from oak trees on the BAR Farms property and was preserving hams in the style of the famous Iberico hams of Spain.
Mr. Raley was also the founder of the Broadkill Animal Reservation, a hunting club.
John Hall, who worked as a general manager for Mr. Raley for more than 20 years, said Mr. Raley was a man who wasn't afraid to be bold and walk differently than others. “He listened to his own heart. He might have had a rough exterior, but he was very intelligent - always thinking.”
Mr. Raley is survived by his wife, Sue G. Raley, as well as two daughters: Susan R. Hopkins and her husband Kenny of Lewes, and Margaret I. Raley-Ward and her husband, Sherman, of Lewes. He is also survived by his son, Robert M. Raley of South America; and two grandchildren: S. Natalie Hopkins of Lewes and R. Shane Raley of Lewes. Mr. Raley is also survived by his sister, Ellen Prach and her husband John of Millburn, N.J.; along with two nieces and two nephews.
Viewings and services for Mr. Raley will be held in the Grand Cru Event Center at Nassau Valley Vineyards. There will be a viewing from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday, June 10, and also from 10 to 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 11. A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. with a luncheon afterwards.
Internment, private, will take place Wednesday, June 11, at Mills Island, Chincoteague Bay, in Maryland.
Flowers should be sent to Nassau Valley Vineyards, 32165 Winery Way, Lewes, or donations can me made to Lewes Fire Department, P.O. Box 225, Lewes, DE 19958, or Ducks Unlimited, Eastern Sussex, 32193 Winery Way, Lewes, DE 19958.