Melissa Ann Riggio
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RIGGIO--Melissa Ann, 20-year old beloved daughter of Steve, CEO of Barnes & Noble, Inc., and wife, Laura, died peacefully on April 7, 2008 at University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell in Manhattan, after a courageous battle with leukemia. She was surrounded by her parents, sisters 22-year old Laura and 16-year old Christina, both of Bernardsville, New Jersey, and other members of her loving family. Born March 25, 1988 in Brooklyn, New York, she lived in Bernardsville, New Jersey, since 1999. Melissa, who was born with Down Syndrome, lived a full and extraordinary life. She was a strong and optimistic young woman and was an inspiration to everyone who had the opportunity to know her. In May 2003, Melissa received the Self Advocate Award from The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) at their annual spring luncheon in Manhattan, which also honored Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton. A graduate of Bernards High School, Class of 2007, Melissa was crowned Prom Queen at her senior prom. She was employed by Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, where she was an office worker. Melissa had plans to enter a post secondary program so that she could become a counselor at the YMCA. She loved to read and listen to music and she loved to write. A poet and a songwriter, Melissa was taking voice, drama, and dance lessons and aspired to become a singer one day. Some of Melissa's songs were recorded by acclaimed singer/ songwriter Rachel Fuller. Melissa is also survived by her paternal grandmother, Lena Riggio, of Brooklyn, New York and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Family and friends may visit at the Gallaway & Crane Funeral Home, 101 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, New Jersey on Thursday April 10th from 2-4pm and 7-9pm. A Mass of Christian Burial, open to the public, will be offered on Friday, April 11 10am, at Church of St. James, 184 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, New Jersey. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to The Valerie Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Morristown Memorial Health Foundation, P.O. Box 1956, Morristown, New Jersey 07962. When making a donation, please indicate that it is in memory of Melissa Riggio. Services provided by Gallaway & Crane Funeral Home: www.gcfuneralhome.com or 908-766-0250.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times from Apr. 9 to Apr. 10, 2008.
Memories & Condolences
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99 entries
June 8, 2019
I am terribly sorry to learn of your family's loss.
Glen Bolofsky
April 30, 2017
From time to time, your daughter's name comes up in my life. I'm inspired by her life and wish I had met her. My own son died in 2004, and I have another son with Down Syndrome who I hope someday will be accepted into the Mellisa Riggio Higher Education program as he has Down Syndrome and loves life and participates as she did. Thank you for sharing her memory and for the foundation and charitable works in her honor that keep her memory alive.
Esther Arden
February 22, 2015
Dearest Riggio Family,

Through your beautiful daughter's/sister's accomplishments she is an inspiration for my daughter. May knowing she is in the Lord's presence bring you comfort.

With heartfelt sympathy,
Lore Ferraro
May 23, 2014
While student teaching at BHS in 2004-5 under the tutelage of J.M., I had the pleasure of teaching Melissa. She was such a sweet child. Very eager to learn and an avid participant in all instructional activities. I forget the name of her special needs teacher, which is a shame because they had such a wonderful rapport with one another. I feel privileged to have known Melissa.
Jim Savage, Esq.
February 5, 2009
Dear Riggio Family,

Please accept our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your beautiful daughter Melissa. Though we were not fortunate enough to have met her, we have seen her website, read her poems and songs and want to tell you how truly inspiring she IS. A few months after Melissa passed away, we were blessed with the birth of twin girls, Emma and Rebecca Vopal. Rebecca has Down syndrome and we live in Basking Ridge. I've bookmarked Melissa's site and one day when our girls are old enough, I'll be certain to share the beautiful life of your daughter with both of my daughters. May God bless you and your family.
With sympathy,
Jim and Sharon Vopal
Basking Ridge, NJ
Sharon Vopal
January 30, 2009
Dear Riggio family, I am very sorry. Your daughter was beautiful and inspired alot of peopl, me being one of them. Her wisdom has inspired me to become a doctor, and find a cure for Down's Syndrome. My cousin has Cerebral Palsy, and I know how you feel. Your family is in my prayers and will always be. May Melissa rest in peace. God Bless You!
Sheyenne Nelson
October 18, 2008
A great loss and a wonderful legacy. Our daughters went to school together for 5 years. AnnaMarie still remembered Melissa and talks about her to today.
I just heard today that there is a program in Kingsborough in Melissas name. I am looking into it for AnnaMarie. I know what Melissa wanted and hopefully, AnnaMarie can live up to it.
Kathleen Leone
September 24, 2008
Wow--I never met Melissa, but I knew Steve growing up in Brooklyn and recently my brother Art shared the story of Melissa as well as her grandmother Lena's passing. I am blown away by who Melissa was and is. My regret is not having met her. What a powerful spirit on this earth. What a difference she has made in so short a time. What an inspiration for me in how to live. And for me, with a son with diabetes and another with ADD, i now realize that without her I may not have had access to the information available to me in the bookstores.
To Steve and his family, I send you so much love and comfort in the passing of 2 significant individuals in so short a time. And I thank you for sharing them with us.
Rosemary Mattiello Mancino
rosemary mancino
September 6, 2008
Dear Riggio Family, I was very sorry to hear of your loss from my brother Arthur. As a mother and special education teacher, I am profoundly touched by your amazing daughter and the impact she has made on the lives of others particularly those with special needs. She has done more in her 20 years than most in a lifetime. May you find peace and strength in knowing what an angel she has been and how many lives she continues to bless. Peace to you ... Your former neighbor from across the street, Vivian Mattiello LaColla
Vivian LaColla
July 8, 2008
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Riggio - I just heard the sad news about Melissa's passing, and I wanted to express my deepest condolences. I never met Melissa, but I met Mr. Riggio when I was a CRM at the Barnes & Noble in Princeton in the late 1990's. I also knew about Melissa's powerful influence on publishing because I have a sister with an intellectual disability, and I knew that B&N had an extraordinary selection of books unavailable anywhere else. This made me all the more proud to work there, and even though I have moved on, I still speak glowingly and often of the good that Melissa and Mr. Riggio did for families seeking information. Also, empowered by knowing that people DID care about individuals like Melissa and my sister Beth, I later wrote a book about my sister, "Riding The Bus With My Sister." I am infinitely glad to have "known" Melissa. I also know, from reading all of these guest entries, that I would have loved her if we'd met. Please know that she will live on forever in books, music, and everyone whose life she touched. My thoughts are very much with you.
Rachel Simon
June 23, 2008
No bond is as great as that between a parent and child. My deepest condolences are with you as you grieve.
Ruth Hodge
June 5, 2008
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Riggio, Laura and Christina,

I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa, Mrs. Riggio and Christina one day in the waiting room of Dr. Brenda Kohn, pediatric endocrinologist at NYU Tish Hospital. My daughter Abigail was just a new born then and Dr. Kohn was kind enough to contact you to ask if I could call for guidance. Mrs. Riggio, you were so kind and your advice has stuck in my heart since then. My husband Judah and I have watched Melissa in her many moments of glory and cheered her on and considered her to be an increidble role model for our Abby. We certainly loved all that Melissa accomplished because it gave us promise for a bright future for Abby. We moved to Houston 4 years ago and so missed news of Melissa's passing until we just received our local DSA newsletter. We are grieving your loss and can only imagine how empty your hearts must be without the light of her spirit around you. I trust that she is in a better place, signing with God and his many angels . I am sure you have been overwhlemed with how many people her life affected. Please know that we are praying for you and your healing and will continue to talk with Abby about what an incredible woman Melissa was...she may be gone from earth but she is not gone from our hearts.
Kate Yadan
May 12, 2008
To the Riggio family:

My deepest sympathy for the loss of your wonderful daughter.
I did not know your daughter, but came across her story while doing a research on Down Syndrome.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)

In Christ,
Elda Cordone
May 3, 2008
Dear Steve and Laura:

Michael and I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to you and your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this difficult time.

Sincerely

Michael and Eileen Massa and family
Michael Massa
May 2, 2008
I did not know Melissa personally, but I did see the magic in her eyes, when she spend time with Rachel Fuller in NYC. Melissa was an inspiration to all people, and should always be remembered as someone that took the cards she was dealt and made them into a winning hand.

Love Ron "RONZI" Cianciaruso
Ron Cianciaruso
April 22, 2008
Melissa our guardian Angel
April 18, 2008
I was so saddened upon hearing about Melissa's death. Her life was, and always will be, a true source of inspiration. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Debbie
April 18, 2008
To the Riggio Family,
Although I did not know your daughter and have only been introduced to her through her passing, I feel as very blessed just from having read the articles about her.
Our daughter is 17 and has had similar experiences to Melissa.
I feel that the angels came to get her and are tending to her and she is well.
May God give you the strength to make it through this time that no parent should ever have to go through.
Our family will continue to pray for your hearts throughout this time.
Makini Anwisye
April 17, 2008
My name is Rachel Fuller. I was privileged to have known and loved Melissa and her family. Together we wrote the song The Ring. I was so touched by her poetry. I met her at a time in my life when it needed a miracle to restore my faith in music and to a certain extent human beings!- and she did this. She was and is an angel. I loved her deeply and i cannot imagine the loss her family will feel. My love and prayers to all,
I was blessed to have known her,
Rachel Fuller
Rachel Fuller
April 16, 2008
Dear Steve and Laura, Laura and Christina,

I loved Melissa, although I never met her. Her music made with Rachel Fuller was my entree into Melissa's world, and she touched me deeply. I am so sorry to learn of her death and my heart reaches out to you and all of your family and Melissa's close friends.
Steve, I will always remember meeting you when Rachel and Pete played at the bookstore here in Minneapolis in Dec. 2006. When you learned that I knew Melissa's songs, you exuberantly took me by the hand and led me over to the magazine rack, where the National Geographic Kids issue featuring Melissa was on display. You were such a proud dad!
As a bereaved mother myself (11 years ago, my youngest son died), I do know the deep grief you are feeling and my heart aches for you. I thank God for Melissa's special gifts and for the way she touched the world, and I promise that I will never forget your dear Melissa.

Deepest condolences,
Brina Rood
Brina Rood
April 16, 2008
TO the RIGGIO FAMILY,

Please accept our heart felt sympathy on the loss of your daughter. We join your family on celebrating her life which has touched so many.
Iphy
April 15, 2008
The Ring, incredible song, please let me buy it through the NDSS to help raise money for such an important foundation. The Person, Melissa, what a courageous and brave young woman you have been. You have graced this planet with your existence and you have left it better than the way you found it. It is the special, dare I say different children, who are the ones who end up changing the world, everyone else seems to just talk about it. You can be alive for a hundred years and never do anything or you can be alive for twenty and etch your name permanently into society, I choose the latter. Thank you Riggio Family for everything you have brought us, you are truly blessed.
George Fox
April 15, 2008
Mr. and Mrs. Riggio - I had never heard of you or Melissa till I received an email that is being sent around regarding her death. You have my heartfelt sympathy for your loss. My husband and I, too, have lost a daughter, Melinda, at the age of 23, twelve years ago. She had Down syndrome and was dual-diagnosed with mental illness. Because she was on so many medications for the mental illness, she became very lethargic and eventually aspirated. We had 23 blessed, happy years with her - she inspired us so, just as your Melissa has you. I am proud of the fact that you have done so much for the special needs people in our world. My prayers are with you.
Joan Andersen
April 15, 2008
Hello, In doing some research on line I came across Melissa's story, her songs and that beautiful face that radiated love and light. I think her family is correct in stating that there are not a lot of books about people with different abilities. I am currently writing a book about my life with my sister Sarina who has Down Syndrome and is 40. Melissa inspired me with her many abilities that reached out to not only people who had family members who have Downs Syndrome but to the general population to help them open their eyes, hearts and minds to see that people don't have disabilities but different abilities that we could all learn and benefit from. My heart felt sympathy to you and your family on the loss of your angel, please take solace in knowing that Melissa left this world a brighter more enlighted place to be because for the short time she was in it she made a difference. She was an angel on Earth who now has wings to soar...
many blessings In Light
Gina
Gina Rowland
April 15, 2008
HI Laura and Steve, I was very sorry to hear about Melissa's passing away. Very recently I had been subbing at William O'Connor in Bay Ridge and heard she had leukemia. About a week later I was there and the notice of her death was up. I remember the first day Laura came with her to Wm. O'Connor when we were on 74th St. She did so well over the years in pre-school. Just now as I read what she has done since over the Internet, I know you and your family had to be very proud of her. As I continue to work with families with children with Down Syndrome, she offers such hope and promise for them, even now. KNow that my prayers and best wishes go out to you, your girls, and the rest of the family. She is resting in peace in the palm of God's hand.
Libby Avitabile
April 14, 2008
Thank you for bringing such a beautiful person into this world. Her life will be a shining example for my 7 month old DS daughter. I appreciate the promotion of books on kids with special needs. I know I'll always find a resource there. My sincere condolences to your family.
Evelyn James
April 14, 2008
Mr. and Mrs. Riggio, Laura Christina:

Words cannot express how deep my sympathy is for your family. As the mother of a 5 yr old daughter blessed with an extra chromosome, I have joyfully followed Melissa's extraordinary accomplishments for the past two years. Her plan to attend college helped me understand that our daughter, Eliza Claire, could very well attend college too. Without ever knowing it, Melissa took many of my fears and turned them into possibilities. I loved her from afar and she will always be in my heart.

Few can truly know the depth of love that a child with Down Syndrome can bring into a family, but we do. A woman asked me the other day about miracles and I told her that if God would grant me just one miracle in my lifetime, I wouldn't ask Him to take the Down Syndrome from Eliza - because she's perfect just the way she is. I know you understand.

Melissa's life touched countless others, the number of which will only be known in Heaven.

I am truly sorry for your loss.
June Richard
April 14, 2008
Dear Mr. & Ms. Riggio,

I wanted to express my condolences at the passing of your daughter Melissa. I am one of your employees and had the opportunity to read the article on Melissa and Down Syndrome last year. I was so impressed with her optimism for life and for her future. I am sure she will continue to sing and to write and the angels will be singing her songs. Again, my condolences to you and your beautiful daughters.
Angie Wager
April 14, 2008
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Riggio, You don't know me, but both Melissa and you have touched our daughter's life..She is a newly registered nurse at Morristown Memorial Hospital and she was so saddened to hear that Melissa had passed.. Apparently Melissa had quite a personality and brought a smile to our daughter many a time..

May you and your family be comforted knowing that Melissa was a special angel from above and may your memories warm your family and the many people Melissa's life has touched..May God bless you all and may you find peace knowing Melissa is at peace with the Lord..
Marion O'Neill
April 14, 2008
Dear Riggio Family:
I am so very sorry for your deep loss of your precious daughter and sister. She has been a true inspiration to all.
Wanda Maguire
April 14, 2008
Dear Riggio Family,
So sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. Your daughter and your family have made such an impact with so many families likes our who are just starting out and loving someone with Down Syndrome. I know we have never met,but your daughter was well known and respected,again our deepest sympathies.
Casey Sullivan
April 13, 2008
Dear Riggio Family,
I am so sorry for your loss. Your beloved Melissa was an inspiration to me and my hopes for my son. My thoughts and prayers are with you all during this time.
Jeanette Cordova
April 13, 2008
I write this letter to Melissa’s siblings… siblings that I have never had the privilege to meet.

In our back bedroom I hear my daughters whispering in the fort they recently constructed out of pillows and blankets.

If you are like a sibling in our family, you have become… skilled at navigating through a language that to others, seem foreign… well versed in explaining your sister’s behavior to others… overlooked as your sister accomplished things doctors told you she would never accomplish… reflective as you watched the years ritual of putting your backs against the wall to mark your height, only to find yourself growing so much taller than your sibling.

I can guess that there have been moments of frustration, moments of clawing protection and moments of pride. I can also guess that these and countless other precious moments in your life have shaped you in to the people you are today.

Melissa’s siblings, my heart goes out to you for you undoubtedly made forts as well with Melissa and in these forts plans were made, thoughts were expressed and secrets were shared that will always be remembered.

Eliza Woloson, author “My Friend Isabelle”
Eliza Woloson
April 12, 2008
Though we never met, the impact of your lives upon ours has been tremendous. From the Buddy walk, to Barnes and Noble events and sponsored events, we've benefited from your lives and your choices. Melissa's essay is something I read often (and I've passed it on to many). Her future plans and desire to sing her own songs inspired and touched me.

What a great loss of a wonderful daughter and sister. I'm filled with sorrow on your behalf. My first-born son Liam had special needs and died at age 2 and I currently have a son Joseph aged 20 months with Down Syndrome. Both were, and continue to be a great blessing in my life.

Thank you for all you've done and continue to do. In the quiet moments of mourning the loss of your child, may you find peace in the wonderful memories of the life of Melissa. She will continue to live on in our memories. My condolences to her sisters.
Esther Arden
April 12, 2008
Your Daughter was a GREAT inspiration to our family and the Down Syndrome Network here in Central Oregon. We did not have the privilege to ever meet her but have followed the articles and have the CD of her song. She was an amazing advocate and role model. I know that my four year old daughter will have it a little easier in her life because of the work that Melissa has done. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. The Hansen Family & Central Oregon Down Syndrome Network
Dianna Hansen
April 12, 2008
Our thoughts and prayers are with your family during this difficult time. Thank you for making such a difference to the DS community.
The Hodges Family
Kelli Hodges
April 12, 2008
People such as Melissa Ann Riggio and those who love them and care for them write the real profiles in courage -- and they do so every day. My prayers are with the family.
Bob Raimonto
April 12, 2008
My condolences to your family for your loss. Your daughter seemed like such an amazing gift! I have a 5 year old daughter with Down Syndrome, who also is in treatment for Leukemia. It is so hard sometimes. But she is such an incredible blessing to my life, I can't imagine losing her. My prayers are with you.
Shelly David
April 11, 2008
Dear Riggio family,

My thoughts and prayers are with you as you say goodbye to a wonderful daughter and sister, and mourn your tremendous loss. Thank you for allowing her to share her beautiful spirit with families like mine who were inspired as much by her hopes and dreams as her plans and accomplishments. We have all lost someone extraordinary in the world. I know you who loved her most, and who she loved most, must be comforted by the memories you created together as she grew up into the lovely individual she was always meant to be. We celebrate the twenty years she was with us in the world, and all she gave to us. May you find peace and comfort during this sad time.
Pam Wilson
April 11, 2008
Dear Riggio family:

My deepest sympathy on the loss of your beautiful daughter Melissa. Even though I was never privileged enough to actually meet Melissa, I continue to be inspired by her strength, her talent and her beauty. I was first introduced to Melissa through last spring's Down Syndrome Awareness evening at the Knoxville, Tennessee Barnes and Noble store. That night we celebrated living life with Down Syndrome as we read her interview with National Geographic and listened to her amazing poems and songs, among other activities. How proud you must be; she truly accomplished so much and touched and inspired more people than I am sure you all could ever imagine. Thank you to your amazing family for sharing her with all of us.

I pray that God comforts and heals you now and that with time your grief can be replaced by your beautiful memories.
Cheryl Owens
April 11, 2008
My deepest sympathy to the Riggio family. May name is Robbin Lyons and my daughter, Kelly is a 5 year with Down syndrome and a 1 and a half year survivor of of leukemia. I work every day with families of individuals with this dual diagnoses. Melissa has been such an inspiration to my family. My oldest daughter first brought Melissa's story to my attention from the National Geographic article she read in school. We are a very musical family and my daughter was so excited to read about Melissa. I wish that I had known of her diagnoses and had the opportinity to offer you all our support. For now, know that you have our prayers and that your daughter's life made a difference in ours. Especially for the 9 year old "big sis" to Kelly. Anyone with a family member with DS and Leukemia can contact us at www.kellysupsidedownball.org
God Bless,
Robbin Lyons
Robbin Lyons
April 11, 2008
Dear Riggio Family,
During this most difficult time, please accept our love and care for all of you. Our prayers are with you. Take comfort in all that Melissa has done and all of the lives that she has touched. Her life gave so much for so many. Love, Patty McGill Smith, daughter Jane and grandson Sean. Omaha, Nebrask
Patty McGill-Smith
April 11, 2008
In the shimmering example of Melissa Riggio, we are uplifted and inspired by her poetry, her passion for artistic expression and her determination to “suck the marrow out of life”. But we are not surprised at her strong character and vision for we know that, many years ago, when the reality was much less well-known, the Riggio Family and the people at Barnes and Noble were willing to open their arms, their hearts and their stores to our people by providing the opportunity to shop, to work and to be accepted into at least one part of the community.
Why would Almighty God wish to take an Angel such as Melissa when there are so many more of us on this earth who might be more easily spared? None of us know. But we do know she was a rock in the water. And we know we are better off for having had her and The Riggio Family and our friends at Barnes & Noble within our lives. And this gives us hope.

Respectfully,

Steve and Mary McKenna
Bernards Township, NJ
(parents of two of Melissa's fellow Angels).
Steve McKenna
April 10, 2008
To Melissa's family, I am truly sorry for your loss. I have a daughter who is 22 years old she has Cerebral Palsy and although afflicted severelly with this disability she amazes us with her gifts of love, inspiration, and her talent and love of art "she is truly an artist" as her 9 year old brother puts it. I tell you of my daughter because I know that if ever the time comes that the Lord wants her back I can only imagine the pain of the seperation from a child . I think this must be the way our father in heaven feels when because of our sin we are eternally seperated from Him. Remember there is a time to be sad and a time to mourn let the Lord carry you during this time of sorrow and pain, I hope you find comfort and joy in knowing that absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, that is where your little girl is now. God Bless you all...
Christine Magee
April 10, 2008
Our thoughts and prayers go out to your family.
Adrienne Caporino
April 10, 2008
My deepest Sympathy at the loss of Melissa. My thoughts and prayers are with your entire family at this most difficult time. I thank you so completely for sharing your daughter with us while she was here, and hope you continue to do so with memories moving forward. I have a 9 year old daughter with Down Syndrome and seeing Melissa, so confident and sure of herself has me wondering daily what amazing memories we have yet to make! G-D bless you all, and may your love for one another help you thru this most difficult time. I promise I will carry Melissa with me always, and remind everyone just what our children are really capable of.
Rebecca Reyes
April 10, 2008
I am sorry to hear of your recent loss. You have been blessed with many memories of a young lady with and extrodinary life. Cherish those.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you as I am also a mother of a son with Down Syndrome.
Tracy Mansfield
April 10, 2008
May God keep you all close during this difficult time. My son has DS and I feel extremely lucky to have been so up lifted and excited to read all about your wonderful and beautiful daughter. You are so lucky to have had someone so very special in your life and she too was very lucky to have had such a happy and loving family. God bless you all, especially sweet Melissa.
Ruth Cleaver
April 10, 2008
I am saddened to hear the loss of your precious daughter. As the mother of a teenage daughter with DS, I can imagine the joy Melissa brought to your family. My prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time. May the Lord be with you.
Ali Gutschenritter
April 10, 2008
I am very very sad to hear of Melissa's death. I've been a B&N client more than a couple times and I remember vividly you introducing me to Melissa at an event, Steve.

Melissa was full of life and your family will be blessed with her vitality and spirit always.

My thoughts are with the entire Riggio family.

Stephanie Fierman
Stephanie Fierman
April 10, 2008
Dear Riggio Family,
I am so very sorry for the passing of Melissa. My 3-year-old daughter has Down syndrome, and Melissa became an inspiration to me after I read her essay in "National Geographic Kids". I often quote her - "Judge me as a whole person, not just the person you see." I can imagine how proud you are of her and her accomplishments. My heart breaks for you. Please know that Melissa has touched the lives of many. You are in my prayers. May God bless you with strength to get through his sorrowful time, and memories to sustain you until you meet her again. Peace be with you.
Danelle Eikens
April 10, 2008
We wanted to send you condolances and thank you for sharing Melissa with us.

We are parents to many, including our youngest, Molly Kate, 7yrs, who also has an "enhanced" chromosome.

I hope you can feel the prayers of thousands as we join to beg for your peace and comfort in this time.

We celebrate the life of this beautiful young woman, and her wonderful family who crusaded for the awareness of our children.

Thank you for sharing her with us, and with the world. You all are our heroes!

eileen and larry wilson
and miss molly kate

myspace.com/
downsyndrome_awareness
eileen wilson
April 10, 2008
Please accept my deepest sympathies at the passing of your beloved daughter, Melissa. May your faith, family, and friends sustain you in the days ahead.
Linda Walker
April 10, 2008
Melissa clearly made a far-reaching impact both on her family who loved her dearly, and on the community at large. From her poignant obituary, I see that in twenty short years she accomplished what many of us never achieve in a lifetime... she lived and loved and worked at fullspeed, eager to make every moment count.

I like to think that the angels in heaven are listening to her songs and poetry right now...

Sending warm wishes and prayers for comfort to all of you who knew and loved her.

Sincerely,
Janice Maynard, author
Janice Maynard
April 10, 2008
Reading the entries in this guest book, we can all see that Melissa has not really left us. She will live on through the lives of the countless people she inspired and informed. God Bless your entire family during this difficult time.
Greg Morris
April 10, 2008
I stand in awe of Melissa's life and her courage. As we lament her passing, may she rest in peace and may beautiful memories fill the emptiness she has left in your lives.
I'm Jimi's Secretary
Helena Levenson
April 10, 2008
We are truly sorry that you have lost this beautiful daughter. What an outstanding woman she must have been as well. As the mother of an adult daughter with down syndrome I know how proud you must be of her. We know her story will remain an inspiration for parents of young children and a lesson in acceptance for the rest of the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Ed, Jackie, and Emily Dodson
Jackie Dodson
April 10, 2008
We are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of your beloved Melissa. Our hearts are truly broken for your family as we sadly understand the deep pain of your loss and recent experience. Our 14 year old son CJ, born prematurely with Down syndrome, died on 12.02.2007 from complications of Recurrent Leukemia. CJ relapsed in August 2007.

Please know our that our thoughts and prayers are with you now and in the difficult time ahead. Our beloved teenagers are surely singing and playing their guitars in Heaven. God Bless you and yours.
Chis & Sue Sweeny
April 10, 2008
Steve, Laura & Family: I worked for B&N back in the day with Frank Choo and have a little girl with DS. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and always know through Melissa you have helped so many.
Liz O'Neill-DeSantis
April 10, 2008
Clearly, Melissa both gave and received so much love. I am among the Barnes and Noble employees who could feel the pride and delight with every mention of Melissa by her father. My heart goes out to the Riggio family.
Lisa Curtis
April 10, 2008
I am so sorry for your loss. Our daughter is 10 months old, and Melissa has been part of the inspiration that has kept me going. I remember sharing her story with my husband as we were greiving over our daughter's diagnosis, looking for hope.
Thank you for helping her to share her story with the world and be an inspiration to so many people.
Marissa Little
April 10, 2008
so sorry to hear of your loss, i have a 4 year old son with ds who brings joy to my life every day
lisa sked
April 10, 2008
I have twin sons with Down syndrome. Melissa's work, her leadership and her willingness to speak freely and frankly, will make the road so much easier for Will and Jamie.
Al Veerhoff
April 9, 2008
Thank you for sharing your precious daughter with us. She is an inspiration to our family, and to so many across the country. Our hearts join you in sadness for the early end to such a determined and full life. Thank you again for sharing Melissa's life with us all.
J Burgess
April 9, 2008
We pray that you can, in some way, be comforted in knowing how Melissa's short life has brought joy that will extend for eternity. We remember the joy that Melissa brought to our Mary as they shared a very close friendship through many years. We will always remember Melissa's laughter. May peace be with you.
The Flynn Family
April 9, 2008
To The Riggio Family,

Our most sincere condolences on the passing of your daughter. Melissa was a true inspiration, such a beautiful girl, which touched our hearts thru her story songs and poems. Her story in National Geographic had such a positive impact and we where so happy to see her sharing her story of life and Down syndrome with the world. She is absolutely an angel. Melissa was a gift and has touched so many lives – more than you know. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family in this difficult time. Her loss is a loss to us all.
We have been inspired by Melissa as we have our own little Frederik 4 years old born with down syndrome she showed us unlimited options and success with a disability.

Rest in Peace Melissa.
Marit & Rene Loessl Raaberg
April 9, 2008
We don't know you, but we are grateful for everything Melissa and your family has done. Melissa was an inspiration. Her life and your contributions to Down syndrome awareness and special needs awareness has been far reaching.
We hope the good memories of Melissa will help you at this time of loss. We also have a daughter (4) with DS. Thanks for all you do.
Sandra Fortmann
April 9, 2008
Thanks for all you have done to make the world aware of the blessings and fullness of our kids. Our prayers are with you in your grief.
L Smith
April 9, 2008
I never had the opportunity to meet Melissa, but she has greatly affected our family from afar. We first heard of her when my eldest daughter found her story in the National Geographic for Kids. Our 2nd daughter has T21 like Melissa. She loved looking at Melissa's beautiful pic in the magazine. We then downloaded her song and became fans. We are so saddened by your loss. She will be missed by the Down syndrome community worldwide.
Nicole Maher & Family
April 9, 2008
I am so sorry for your loss. Melissa's birth inspired great things, but who she was and how she worked toward her dreams are what I will remember about her. I never had the opportunity to meet this sweet soul, but I will hold her in my heart.

Barnes & Noble was a favorite destination for our family when my son was just a toddler. Melissa's impact on our family began when she was just a baby; my son was four years old and his sister just turned six. I'll never forget the first time I stood in front of the brand new Special Needs section at our local store. The memory still brings tears to my eyes, thinking what that small collection might do to change the world for us. And it did.

But it is her life that lights the way for us now, more than anything we could accomplish or plan. Those twenty years will shine brightly as long as we live and remember.

Wishing you peace and comfort in your loss,

The Wilson Family
Pamela Wilson
April 9, 2008
As a friend of Melissa's "Aunt Joann & Uncle Keith", I am aware of her many accomplishments & achievements from her proud Aunt & Uncle. The pictures from her prom and her beautiful smile & glow--& to be named prom queen! How wonderful & special! I can only pray that her loving family find strength, solace & peace in knowing you now have a special "Angel" watching over YOU. My thoughts & prayers are with you during this difficult time. With heartfelt condolences, The Principato Family
Carla Principato
April 9, 2008
Our prayers and thoughts are with you as you experience the loss of your daughter. We have a 7 year old daugher with Down Syndrome and Melissa's accomplishments and her personhood are an inspiration to us.
Joy McDonald
April 9, 2008
To the Riggio family: I am very saddenned to hear of the loss of your daughter. Melissa seems to have accomplished a great deal in her tragically short life and has inspired others by her example. As a parent of a baby boy with Down Syndrome facing a long and uncertain road to the future, I am comforted knowing that people like Melissa achieved so much and were able to overcome preconceived notions about ability and limitations. This is a wonderful legacy. May G-d comfort you in your sorrow, and may you continue your advocacy on behalf of children with Down Syndrome in Melissa's memory.
James Sanders
April 9, 2008
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Melissa was an extraordinary girl, and will be forever missed.
Patricia Derdzinski
April 9, 2008
It was just last week that I was introduced to Melissa (via her writings and song), a remarkable young lady. I feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to introduce her amazing legacy to my 2 year old son Jacob. Melissa will forever be in our hearts as our hero and beautiful angel!!
Madeline Borkin
April 9, 2008
As a mother of a 7 year old boy with Down Syndrome, I too know the love and compassion from our wonderful children. My heartfelt sympathies go out to you and yours during this time of sorrow
Heather Webber
April 9, 2008
My heart goes out to Melissa's family. Her father has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with Down syndrome and their families through Barnes and Noble. Melissa has been a great inspiration to our family and when her story was in a magazine last summer my 14 year old son with Down syndrome couldn't stop reading it and looking at her picture. I was so looking forward to hearing of more of her successes. A true tragedy, a wonderful life cut too short.
Sandra McElwee
April 9, 2008
Melissa was the catalyst for the most inspiring and moving event 2705 has ever hosted. And we are just one of hundreds of Barnes & Noble stores. Melissa was beautiful and courageous, and her loss is a loss to us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve, Len, and the entire Riggio family.
Dawn Anderson
April 9, 2008
Melissa was a gift that touched so many lives. Her words in her song and her story in National Geographic had such a positive impact on my family. Our heartfelt sympathy go out to her family and to all who loved and cherished Melissa.

Rest in Peace beautiful girl.

Peace and love, The Hintz Family
Tara Marie Hintz
April 9, 2008
I have a daughter who is 7 with Down syndrome and know the love you have witnessed through Melissa.
My most sincere condolences on the passing of your daughter. My prayers are with your family.
May God fill your heart with Peace and comfort.
Tracy Cleghorn
April 9, 2008
To The Riggio Family,
We're thankful for the time Melissa was here with us, and the impact her life had on so many - those she knew and didn't know. Our prayers are with your family & friends as they face the coming days without her near.
Tina Roquemore
April 9, 2008
The loss of a child is the most unbearable pain to a parent.......the loss of an angel is a loss to us all. Your angel paved a path for mine and for that I will always be grateful to her and to you for sharing her. My heart and prayers go out to all feeling the loss.
Dawn Gaita
April 9, 2008
Melissa's life spurred an educational outreach program that supports and encourages those of us who have loved ones with special needs. Would that we all create blessings for others and be an angel on earth.
Mom to four girls, one of whom has Down syndrome
Mindy Lee
April 9, 2008
I am very sorry to hear about the loss of such an incredible young lady. Melissa was a true inspiration to many, including the young students I have the pleasure of having in my life. Her memory will live on in their accomplishments
Jessica Milligan
April 9, 2008
My heart breaks for you all- what an amazing young woman who gave the world so much- I hope that my daughter will become like Melissa one day- strong, independent, with a spirit that radiates throughout this world.
Sarah Blunkosky
April 9, 2008
Melissa Ann you were never a broken Angel. In fact, we are the ones who were broken, while you were sent to teach us how to be whole. You inspired so many people, with and without Down's syndrome. Although we are heart broken to see you go, Heaven wanted you back. Thank you for touching our lives.
Julie Borkowski
April 9, 2008
I so wish I had the right words to offer you but I know I don't. Your family's story has been so instumental for our family of 7. My children admire your children...my husband and I admire you all as parents. We know that our Alex (3) will have so many more opportunities in life because of wonderful people like Melissa. Your family has been and always will be an inspiration for us. Many prayers, hugs and blessings--Robbie, Tamara, Averi, Addie, Eston, Emma and Alex
Tamara White
April 9, 2008
My deepest sympathy on the loss of your daughter. I have a daughter who has has Down Syndrome and hearing about Melissa inspires me to continue to advocate for her to reach her full potential. May you be surrounded by friends and family during this difficult time.
Much Love,
Phyllis
April 9, 2008
I'm so sorry for your loss. I have a son with DS who is a leukemia survivor. I read and then heard your daughter's song, and can see what a poet and gift to life she was, and what a gift to the chorus of heaven she must be. I and so many others in the DS community worldwide are so sorry for your loss and praying for your family.
Beth DeHoff
April 9, 2008
God doesn't allow us all to experience love in its purest form. Some of us are lucky enough to receive this gift. When received, we question it, understand it, then fiercely cherish it, never wanting to let go. We received that gift and keep it close to our hearts daily. We can only imagine the pain in the loss of your Melissa. She will be in our hearts always.
The Russo Family
April 9, 2008
Melissa's legacy of courage and inspiration has put her on the top of my "Heroes in My Life" journal. As the mother of two daughters with Down Syndrome, I can't imagine the loss you are experiencing after twenty years of loving Melissa. Our family's prayers are with you and yours.
Nina Fuller, author of Special Strength for Special Parents
Nina Fuller
April 9, 2008
We will miss the magic Melissa brought to our community.
Mikulich Family
April 9, 2008
What a beautiful angel she was on Earth and now in Heaven. May God bless all the lives that she has touched...I think He already has, just by knowing her. It is such sad news. She will always be an inspiration to parents and their children with Down Syndrome. Thank you for giving her the opportunities to excel. Melissa will be missed. Hugs and condolences to her family.
Ariana Ruiz
April 9, 2008
My most sincere condolences on the passing of your daughter, Melissa. My prayers are for Melissa and with your family.
Father Sylvester Cronin
Executive Director
Stewardship and Development
Diocese of Metuchen, NJ
Sylvester Cronin
April 9, 2008
We are deeply saddened by your loss. Melissa helped to bring down barriers for families of children with special needs. We have a 3 year old daughter with Down syndrome and are grateful that Melissa helped make this a better place for her. Our sincere sympathy is extended to the Riggio family. You are all in our prayers.
Dana Smyth
April 9, 2008
I am so sorry for your loss. As a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, reading about Melissa several years ago gave me so much hope for my son. She is an inspiration for many children with special needs. Thank you for sharing her life with us. May you be surrounded by family and friends during this difficult time.
Rachel
April 9, 2008
I am so sorry for your loss of Melissa. What a beautiful daughter she must have been inside and out. I love the songs that she wrote. I too have a son, Brian, age 7 with Down syndrome. My prayers go out to your family.
Diane Moede
April 9, 2008
We were stunned by news of the loss of Melissa Ann. Her life is a remarkable testimony to the love and support of her family and her joyful drive to explore and fulfill her potential. We mourn her passing and hold her and her family in our thoughts and prayers.
Chris & Shelley Kerr
April 9, 2008
I have never met Melissa in person, but she has been such an inspiration to me as a parent of a young boy with Down syndrome. May your legacy grow and your memory live forever. My thoughts and prayers honour Melissa and her family. I know that your grief is shared around the world.
Sam P
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