The Life of a North County Activist: Constance L. "Connie" Riley

Gardner native, community activist; 89

FITCHBURG -- Constance "Connie" L. Riley died at age 89 on September 23rd at The Highlands nursing home in Fitchburg. A native of Gardner, she moved to Fitchburg 12 years ago.

She was the daughter of James E. and Bernice (Timpany) Riley and the granddaughter of former Gardner mayor, James A. Timpany.

The mother of eight children, Connie graduated from Mount Wachusett Community College and UMass/ Amherst at ages 47 and 51, respectively. She was a founding member of the Fitchburg Women's Center and Womanspace in Gardner, working as a co-ordinator for both. She held positions as a community organizer/planner for Low Income Planning Aid, a delegate agency of the Montachusett Opportunity Council; the equal opportunity officer/executive assistant for Rural Housing Improvement agency in Winchendon; and the director of the Fitchburg/ Leominster Community Action Center.

Connie was an activist in the civil rights, peace and women's movements. She was recognized in the Greater Gardner AARP publication Greater Gardner Women Who Made a Difference.

She was co-founder of the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society, creator of Montachusett Opportunity Council's Magic of Books program for distributing free books to low-income children, and a publicist of the achievements of Lucy Stone, nineteenth century women's rights leader. In 2006, as part of a clinical trial, Connie was one of the first people the United States to have a non-surgical aortic valve replacement.

Connie was a published poet and writer after taking writing courses in retirement. At age 86, she completed her first book, Chair City of the World, a chronicle of life in Gardner through several generations of her family's experience.

She belonged to the Westminster Great Books Discussion Group for many years, and was a member of the Worcester Friends Meeting.

Connie is survived by her children, Kathleen, James, David, Christopher, and Michael LaRoche and Mary Ellen Perry and Margaret Derezinski. Her son, Thomas LaRoche passed away in 2006. She also leaves her brother, Bernard "Red" Riley of Gardner; six grand-children; two great-grandchildren; several cousins, and a number of nieces and nephews. Her first and second husbands, Henry (Terry) LaRoche and Stig Miller, are deceased. A private service is planned. Donations in her honor may be made to Magic of Books, c/o Montachusett Opportunity Council, 133 Prichard Street, Fitchburg, MA 01420. Published by Sentinel & Enterprise, Sep. 24, 2011

Published Date: 
October 6, 2011