CAROL LYNN RILEY
Carol Riley, 73, formerly of Wantage, NJ passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 1, 2018 at home surrounded by family in Melbourne. She was born in Jersey City, NJ, and spent her childhood in Bayonne with her mother and father, Eleanor and Edgar Moloney and her older brother Donald and younger sister, Ellen. Carol attended St. Andrew’s, Class of ‘59 and Holy Family Academy, Class of ‘63. She settled in Sussex County in the early 70s, where she raised her three children, Nancy, Karen, and Anthony. She spent as many summers as possible in Seaside Park, NJ.
She started working for the state of N.J. in the Department of Corrections in 1978. Her natural compassion allowed her to connect with the juvenile detainees. She took a few under her wing and even treated them to ice cream and the movies. Here, she met the love of her life, Terry Riley in 1985. The two shared a passion of motorcycles and would go on regular rides together. They were married in 1989 and then moved into a geodesic dome that they built themselves. On weekends and after work, she would attend Montclair State University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.
Carol was a dedicated mother who worked three jobs to provide her children with a home full of love and animals in a country setting. Each summer, Carol would take her three children to spend time at the Jersey Shore with her sister and brother-in-law, Michael, and their cousins, Michael Jr., Brian, and Jill. These annual vacations were filled with bike rides, laughter, swimming lessons in the Barnegat Bay, trips to the Park Bakery for chocolate covered donuts and The Berkeley Sweet Shop for chocolate covered sponges, crabbing, Michigan Rummy, boardwalk rides and games, bonfires, and most importantly spending sunrise to sunset on the beach.
Carol had a very special relationship with her sister, Ellen, and brother-in-law, Michael. All the kids from Washington Parkway and Edward’s Court spent time hanging around Joe’s Candy Store in the late 1950’s; Michael and Carol were in the same grade and occasionally Carol would bring her younger sister to tag along. The gang would travel as a solid group, eating at the local pizza place and swimming in the Newark Bay.
Of course Carol treated Ellen as any normal older sister would, feigning reluctance to spend time with her. But the two genuinely enjoyed playing basketball as children and teenagers, journeying to the beach with their parents, and anticipating their older brother’s return from the Army. As young mothers, they shared joys and challenges. Ellen supported Carol as a young single mother, navigating life alone, responsible for three little lives. Carol was by Ellen’s side when she lost her oldest son, Michael. They grew into inseparable best friends, partners for life. The two spent weeks together in Disney World and Seaside Park each year with their children and grandchildren, continuously making new memories and living life to the fullest.
In 2001, her son Anthony experienced a brain injury. In 2003, Carol and Terry decided to build a home in Melbourne, Florida to accommodate his disabilities. From this point on, Carol devoted her time to Anthony, ensuring that he had an active, full life. She enrolled him in college and attended classes alongside him, they went to the gym together, and she helped him pursue his interests and maintain his relationships with his friends from New Jersey. With Terry, they travelled to Italy, Spain, and made annual trips to Seaside Park each summer. Carol helped Anthony qualify for a canine companion, Loper, who quickly became her second (furry) son and Anthony’s protector. Loper pre-deceased Carol by two weeks and surely welcomed her with slobbery kisses and a furiously wagging tail.
Upon retirement and her relocation to Florida, Carol was able to dive head first into so many of her interests. She took classes in photography and found lifelong friends through this passion and her Bunco Babes, as Anthony refers to them. She was also able to resurface interests that were neglected due to work, parenting, and life. As a young mother, she made every one of her children’s Halloween costumes and their clothes; she continued to knit for her grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews. And reading, which had been an occasional option, became an everyday obsession. She shared books and book recommendations with her sister and niece regularly. In her neighbors, she found a family.
Carol’s dedicated daughters were by her side during her last weeks of life, helping with her care and sharing in her last laughs. Nancy, being the oldest, took on a lot of the responsibilities in the house when Carol became a single mother. She will most remember her mom’s perseverance; during a high school peer counseling session, Nancy proudly described her mom’s steadfastness, which Nancy’s classmates still recall, giving them strength many decades later. Karen took over when Nancy left for college and added the element of one needy, crazy animal after another. She will most remember her mother’s always-positive attitude, support and deep love for her grandsons.
Carol’s sister-in-law, Regina, lived nearby; they could often be found out to dinner, to lunch, at the movies and various concerts. Jennifer, Carol’s step-daughter, and her son Liam, would visit and spend time at Patrick’s Air Force Base, swimming at the beach and relaxing in their backyard in the pool. Jennifer and Carol shared a love of cooking and gardening and would often prepare meals together.
Carol’s grandchildren brought her great joy. She celebrated their victories and accomplishments with pride. She spent time with Zachary, Pearce, Aaron, and Corey in Disney World and Seaside Park each year. She bragged to her friends and neighbors about Zach’s success in TCNJ’s engineering program, Pearce’s rising acting career, Aaron’s ability to see the good in everyone and everything, and Corey’s love of sports. She was even present at Corey’s birth in 2006. And her son-in-law, Kevin was no in-law at all. When his own mother passed, he called her and told her that she was his mother from that point forward.
Carol maintained strong relationships with her nieces and nephews as well. Each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Carol opened her home and refrigerator to them, their spouses, and children. And her kindness continued year round, on an as-needed basis: As the oldest cousin, Debra was invited to the adult game table at the Shore to play Michigan Rummy; it was a thrill to have Aunt Carol teach her to play this game that had always been off limits to “the kids”. Billy, Bobby, and Donald had their High Point State Park camping reservation revoked in the middle of the night and sought refuge in Aunt Carol’s backyard; she welcomed them with open arms. Mary Ellen brought her oldest daughter, Hannah, a collicky one and a half year old baby to Thanksgiving. As a new mother, Mary Ellen was anxious about bringing her cranky baby to this holiday. Aunt Carol, in that “Aunt Carol way”, reassured her that everything was going to be ok and it was. Aunt Carol always turned a blind eye to Brian using blankets and pillows with Karen and Nance to slide down her hardwood staircase at unsafe speeds. Bruises and bumps were common, but the fun factor was worth it. Aunt Carol could never turn Jill down, the youngest of the cousins; whether it was “eating” a sand hamburger with a smile on her face or opening her Floridian doors to her and her two sons, Carol just couldn’t say no to her “favorite niece”, as Jill identified herself.
Ellen’s grandchildren, Brodie, Gabriella, Cooper, and Declan, considered her “Aunt Carol” as well. She treated them with the same love that her own grandchildren and nieces and nephews received.
Carol’s life was not always easy and she faced each challenge with grace and a smile. Life handed her many lemons, she laughed at life, said that there was too much lemonade in this world and made a beautiful centerpiece.
She was a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist, where a Funeral Mass will be held Friday, July 6, 2018 at 10am. Friends are invited to call at Beckman-Williamson Funeral Home, 5400 Village Drive, Viera on Thursday, July 5 from 5 to 8pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory can be made to the Canine Companions for Independence, www.cci.org.