Dr. Joseph John Riley
Dr. Joseph John Riley, who for more than a half century provided family medical care to multiple generations, and whose vision and persistence helped bring a medical school to South Jersey, died at his home in Greenwich, New Jersey, Thursday December 10th with his wife, Judith Ann Riley at his side. He was 87.
Riley was born September 2, 1933 in Philadelphia, PA, the son of John Joseph and Elizabeth Frances (O'Neill) Riley. Growing up in Irish Catholic Northeast Philadelphia, he was a city high jump champion at Northeast Catholic High School. He enlisted and served active duty in the United States Army in 1952 and was in the Army Reserves until 1956. Riley earned a B.A. from LaSalle College in 1958 and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1962. It was during this time period in Philadelphia that he was visiting a friend in a hospital polio ward, when by fate, he met and fell in love with a nurse named Judith Lynch. They married in 1958.
In 1965, as a young physician looking for a community where he could make a difference and raise his growing family, Dr. Riley started a medical practice in Bridgeton, New Jersey where, over the next 50 years, he would be the favorite family doctor to thousands of families. He brought countless babies into the world, often in collaboration with his wife Judith, a Certified Nurse Midwife. Over the years, he built his practice with partners Dr. Frank Kohler, Dr. Joseph P. Riley, Dr. Joseph Ordille, Ann Riley-Spoltore CNM and Mrs. Riley. The practice lives on today in the hands of Dr. Ordille and Dr. Judith Riley-Lowe.
Not long after his arrival in Bridgeton, Riley took an active role in Cumberland County politics and regional leadership. He was elected to the County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1969 and served as the Democratic party chairman. He was appointed by New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne as a Commissioner for the Delaware River and Bay Authority where he served 8 years as Secretary. Riley served as a member of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) Board of Trustees from 1975 to 1982 and a Professor of Family Medicine from 1977 until his retirement. He also served as a Trustee of Cumberland County College.
Dr. Riley's most enduring professional legacy is the establishment of a medical school in South Jersey. He was a strong believer that in order for a community to thrive, high quality healthcare was vital. Along with state Senator Joseph Maressa and Dr. Howard Levine, Riley waged a persistent years-long effort that, in 1976, resulted in the UMDNJ - School of Osteopathic Medicine (now the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine). In 2011 SOM awarded him the Medal of Excellence "in recognition of his vision and leadership" in the creation of the medical school.
Riley would tell you his greatest legacy is his remarkable family - the love of his life, Judy, 11 children, 28 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. For more than 40 years, the family homestead, affectionately known as Failte Farm in Greenwich, has been the gathering place and joyous heart of his family life. He reveled in challenging the intellectual curiosities of his adult offspring as well as horsing around with the youngest toddlers.
He is predeceased by his parents and his grandson, Jacob Riley-Wasserman.
He is survived by his wife, Judith Ann Riley (nee Lynch). His children: Elizabeth Riley-Wasserman (Keith) of Bridgeton, NJ; Celeste Riley (Richard Dawson) Bridgeton, NJ; Ann Riley-Spoltore of Cape May, NJ; Joseph Patrick Riley (Lorre Allen) of Sisseton, SD; Mary Ordille (Joseph) of Hopewell, NJ; Christina Riley of Greenwich, NJ; Cathleen Kalina (John) of Delran, NJ; Timothy Riley (Carolina Coello) of DE; Cornelius "Neil" Riley (Roseanne) of Greenwich, NJ; Judith Riley-Lowe (Jeffrey) of Bridgeton, NJ; Patrick Riley (Erin) of Elmer, NJ. He is also survived by his sister, Barbara Riley of Santa Monica, CA and nieces Karen Kalbfell Hoffmann of Raleigh, NC and Lisa Mathews of Redding CA.
His 27 grandchildren include, Aharon (Joanna Rosholm) and Isaac Wasserman; Megan Bifulco (Gennaro) and Catherine Kennedy (Samuel Reising); David Spoltore (Tiffany) and Sarah Kelleher (Marc); Quinn and Lyon Allen-Riley; Daniel, Michael, Joseph and Casey Ordille and Allyson Higinbotham (Alec); Cassidy, Carly, Caroline and Cole Clay; John and Benjamin Kalina; Aidan Riley; Colin, Ethan and Evelyn Lowe; Gavin, Liam and Clare Riley. His 10 great-grandchildren are Aria, Victoria, and Sean Spoltore; Hannah, Sophia, Annabelle and Finn Kelleher; Gennaro III and Charlotte Bifulco; and Josephine Rosholm-Wasserman.
A Funeral Liturgy was celebrated at The Parish of the Holy Cross / St. Teresa of Avila RC Church in Bridgeton and Dr. Riley was laid to rest in a private family ceremony at Overlook Cemetery in Bridgeton.
The family requests that you please remember Joseph with happiness and joy in your own way, as no public services or memorials are scheduled at this time due to the pandemic.
Donations can be made in his honor to: Joseph J. Riley, DO and Judith A. Riley, CNM Merit Award, c/o BHS Guidance Department, 111 N. West Ave., Bridgeton, NJ 08302, Attn: Teri Ott or St. Vincent de Paul Society, Good Shepherd Dining Hall, c/o The Parish of the Holy Cross, 46 Central Ave., Bridgeton, NJ 08302.
Published in The Daily Journal from Dec. 29 to Dec. 30, 2020.