Cover photo for Ferris Elwood (Rocky) River's Obituary
1941 Ferris 2020

Ferris Elwood (Rocky) River

May 14, 1941 — October 27, 2020

Ferris Elwood “Rocky” River

May 14, 1941 – Oct. 27, 2020

Ouray native son and diehard baseball fan Ferris Elwood “Rocky” River rounded the bases and closed out the final inning of his life in Ventura County, Calif. on Oct. 27, 2020 – the very day his beloved Dodgers went on to win the World Series.

For 79 trips around the sun, Rocky approached life with infectious enthusiasm, a certain streak of stubbornness, and deep devotion to his faith and family.

He was born in Cripple Creek, Colo. on May 14, 1941 and raised by his large Italian family in Ouray. His parents were Elwood Robert and Alene Serafina (Fellin) River. His mother’s parents were early Ouray settlers Oliver and Alice Clementine (Deru) Fellin and his father’s parents were Chester and Grace (Green) River of Leadville, Colo.

Rocky attended Ouray High School, serving as student council president and going to “Boys State,” a selective leadership development program in Boulder, Colo. He married his high school sweetheart Sylvia Armenta Rash on Sept. 3, 1958 and pushed his bride down Main Street in a wheelbarrow – a Ouray tradition at that time.

The young couple settled in southern California where they raised six kids who grew up listening to sportscaster Vin Scully on the transistor radio and going to Dodger Stadium with their dad.

Rocky enjoyed a distinguished career as a self-taught computer programmer for the federal government. In the ‘60s, he helped pioneer Global Positioning System (GPS) technology while working as a civilian at Naval Air Station Point Mugu. In his downtime, he devoured James Michener and Taylor Caldwell novels.

Rocky talked to anyone and everyone. He charmed friends and strangers (whom he soon converted into friends) with his gregarious personality and broad, bright smile. He was deeply fond of his hometown and proud of his family’s legacy in Ouray. Among his claims to fame there, he played a role in having Ouray’s Fellin Park named after his grandfather Oliver Fellin, who donated the former-potato-field-turned-baseball-field to the city.

Rocky was a lifelong athlete and youth sports advocate who focused on fitness before it was trendy. He loved to hike and swim, and rode his bike nearly every day in California, racking up 26,000 miles over 26 years. He had an enduring passion for the outdoors and took great delight in teaching anyone and everyone how to fish, especially children.

After retiring in 2004, Rocky returned to Ouray to be near his beloved mother, Alene. Eventually he settled in Montrose where he lived for his final decade. He never missed an OHS home basketball game if he could help it.

A man of deep faith, Rocky loved God and Jesus, and attended St. Daniel’s Catholic Church in Ouray and Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Oxnard, Calif. He adored all the members of what he proudly referred to as “my beautiful family” – from his parents to his great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He spent the last months of his life back in Ventura near several of his kids and grandkids.

Rocky passed on his passion for the Dodgers and his love of trout fishing to his progeny. “The Dodgers may not know it, but they won for him tonight, and in a small way for me,” son Tracy wrote in a Facebook tribute when his dad died.

Rocky is survived by his six children Elizabeth “Beth” A. (Dan) Dempsey of Oxnard, Calif., Troy A. (Dawn) River of San Leandro, Calif., Tracy D. (Michelle) River of Island Park, Idaho, Rebecca “Becky” K. Hathaway of Ventura, Calif., Trevor S. (Debi) River of Oxnard, Calif., and Todd J. “TJ” (Cate) River of Pasadena, Calif., 12 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Rosalyn A. Trujillo of Ouray, Colo. and brothers Richard “Rick” River of Ouray, Colo., and Robert R. River of Tempe, Ariz.

He was preceded in death by his former wife, Sylvia, and his sister Roxanna M. Halls.

A private (because of Covid-19) funeral mass will be held at St. Daniel’s Catholic Church in Ouray for Rocky’s immediate family and very close friends on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 11 a.m., followed by a graveside service at Cedar Hill Cemetery at approximately 12 p.m. that is open to others who wish to pay their respects. Crippin Funeral Home of Montrose is handling arrangements and can be contacted at 970-249-2121. In lieu of flowers, Rocky requested donations be made in his memory to St. Daniel’s Catholic Church in Ouray.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ferris Elwood (Rocky) River, please visit our flower store.


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