Warren Francis Riner, a fifty-seven-year member of Claremont Friends Meeting, was born in Kansas. Oldest of eight children, he worked on his family's farm before earning Masters and Doctorate degrees in education. While attending Friends University in Wichita, Warren became friends with Professor Cecil Hinshaw. He later became a conscientious objector during WWII. After fighting fires and such, he contacted American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia and elected to serve in Norway to help rebuild houses and farms destroyed by the German military. When that term was complete, Warren was transferred to Finland to distribute twenty tons of clothing to citizens who suffered greatly under Soviet expansion; many lost their homes permanently.
Warren met the love of his life in Finland. As he described it, "Our head translator’s name was Elvi Saari…her sister came to visit one Christmas, and then the sparks began. Oh boy." He and Viesca were married in Helsinki in 1947. They attended a small Quaker meeting and visited Lutheran churches before moving to Kansas. In 1960 Warren and Viesca brought their four children to Upland, California, and soon became beloved members of Claremont Friends Meeting. Warren enjoyed a formal career teaching high school and college courses in physics, physical science and electronics.
After retirement, he was free to engage in his favored profession of 'handy-man,' repairing countless things in our meetinghouse and our homes. Warren’s practical work permeated his life, so our memory of him closes with beautiful words he shared during a panel discussion on the query, "What does being a Quaker mean in your daily life?"
"I'd like to talk a little about what I do for a living besides teaching. I actually taught fifty years altogether. But the thing I enjoyed the most, and still do, is handyman work. … I take a Quaker approach. … Everything that exists, you and everything you touch, and everything you see, I believe, is part of God…So I feel part of God--I am helping--no, I'm furthering the future of this earth which I adore, by simply participating in everything that exists, to make it better, to make it more useful, and I do this in a spirit of compassion….They [jobs] just keep coming out of the woodwork. I love it. And I think, 'Thank you, God, because now I'm with you when I do this.'
“I look around the meeting house, and just--sigh with happiness because of these things having been done, and luckily, I've had a hand in doing a lot of them…I have just enjoyed it--I just love it. And the only thing now …as I get older…and my strength [and hearing and sight] is going, I still feel a part of nature. I'm here as long as I'm supposed to be, and I really look forward to leaving this earth with a very peaceful feeling, and knowing that I've left behind something beautiful."
Friends have been truly blessed by the life, the work and the words of Warren Riner.