Bob Raleigh, the man with the trolley

Trolley company owner dies Friday at Wisconsin home

Bob Raleigh, owner of Raleigh’s Trolley Co., was born to serve people. From working at the River’s Edge in Somerset, Wis., when he was younger to starting his trolley company in downtown Stillwater, he was always helping others.
Raleigh died Friday at his St. Joseph, Wis., home due to complications arising from adrenal cancer. He was 69.

The trolley company was Bob Raleigh’s dream job. It began in 1989, and he was excited to get up every day and go to work, according to his wife of 30 years, Karen Raleigh. For 24 years, Bob Raleigh shared stories about the history of Stillwater and his love of the downtown area on the trolley’s 45-minute tours. Before that, he had worked at the River’s Edge campground on the Apple River for his parents, Jack and Alice, in Somerset, Wis.

“He had the gift of gab,” said Raleigh’s brother, Pat Raleigh. “He’s the one who made the Apple River successful. My dad always said that our skills meshed together really good. Dad called me the rainmaker and Bob was the one sending the customers away satisfied. He always did that, whether it was on his trolley or getting people tubing on the river. They never left unsatisfied. Put him anywhere in a company, but make sure that he dealt with the customers and he’d be the best.”

“He could talk to anybody. We always teased him, saying ‘did you just make a couple new friends?’ He’d be sitting there at the stand and pretty soon they’d (people) sit down and have a long chat and then hop on the trolley. Everybody saw him there all the time.” Karen Raleigh said.

“He had the gift of making people feel good about themselves, and he got that from our mother,” Pat Raleigh added.

Bob Raleigh graduated from Hill High School in Maplewood in 1962. And attended both the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls, majoring in English, but didn’t graduate. Bob Raleigh started Raleigh Lines and Tours in the 1970s, leading charter tours throughout the Twin Cities, the Midwest, Alaska, Florida and New England.

“He loved seeing new places,” Karen Raleigh said.

The couple traveled a lot together, including one trip to Las Vegas to see Bob’s favorite group, The Three Tenors. Other trips included Florida, the  Mediterranean and Ireland.

“We traveled well together. On our road trips, we never fought. We were good together that way. I’d do the directions, he’d do the driving. One of my friends once said she was surprised that it worked out OK. I guess it didn’t work out that way for her and her husband,” Karen Raleigh said.

Always optimistic, Karen Raleigh said Bob encouraged her to follow her dreams of pursuing dental school. She retired as a dentist from HealthPartners about two years ago.

“He’s always been optimistic. He was the one who encouraged me to go to dental school. He didn’t worry, I was the worrier in the family and he was the one who was there saying everything would be alright.” Karen Raleigh said. “I always felt when he walked into the room that a window had opened and a little fresh air came in. He was a big guy, so he had a presence about him, and he was my best friend.”

Raleigh Trolley Co. service is suspended today and Thursday and resumes Friday. The last run before service is suspended is with a group of Mahtomedi students on their field trip. It’s fitting, because Karen Raleigh said Bob loved taking kids on tours, teaching them history in a fun way and helping others.

“He just loved people, he was kind and always tried to help people. We have a young friend that he mentored and he did that with lots of people. He was very generous and giving. He always said he was blessed and wanted to give back. It was one of his great joys in life,” she said.

As for the trolley service, it will continue.

“It’s going to be a lot for me. I’ve worked with him with the trolley for the past couple of years since I retired so I know the business, and we’re going to carry on and try and make him proud.” Karen Raleigh said.

Bob Raleigh’s funeral was 11 a.m. today at the Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Houlton, Wis. Bob Raleigh is survived by Karen, three other brothers and four sisters nieces and nephews and many other friends.