Obituaries: James Edward Riffe

  • Wednesday June 12, 2024
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James Edward Riffe
James Edward Riffe

July 9, 1942 — May 1, 2024

James Riffe, known to many as Strange de Jim, passed away May 1, 2024 from complications of Alzheimer's. This beloved San Francisco icon and truly unique individual was 81 years young.

An offbeat wit and gentle kindness were his most memorable hallmarks. Strange first became known to the San Francisco community in the 1970s through contributing numerous cheeky quips to Pulitzer Prize-winning Herb Caen's daily column in the San Francisco Chronicle. As his notoriety grew to near cult-like status, his not-so-public appearances involved wearing a pillowcase over his head to hide his identity from Caen and his adoring fans, which included local socialites, politicians, and Hollywood celebrities. An observer of life, Strange mastered the art of having coffee, and Cafe Flore was like a second home to him. His musings translated into several books that captured his unique take on the human condition and a sincere desire to improve it. His many years as a historian and raconteur of the countless tales of San Francisco garnered him four certificates of recognition from the state of California.

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, Jim is survived by his flatmate since 1989, Stephen Pullis of San Francisco; brother and sister-in-law, John and Jane Riffe; his niece and nephew, Laurie and Robert — and a legion of long term and heartfelt friends. Like his semi-fictional alter ego, Jim is remembered as loving, witty, and fun, and always creative and surprising in his perspective. His charming chuckle is sorely missed. Readers can still enjoy his humorous poignant writings at

Plans are underway for a memorial service to be held this summer.

Memorial donations honoring Strange may be made to Meals on Wheels and the Alzheimer's Association.

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