On February 7, 1938, in Pasadena California, a home birth brought into the world, Marilyn Riley, the youngest child of John (Tode) and Loretta (Toots) Riley. She joined her brother, Larry and sister, Kay.
After a couple of moves between California and Nebraska, where Tode and Toots were raised, the family finally settled in Redondo Beach, California. Marilyn attended St. James Catholic School and graduated from Redondo Union High School. She was always very independent and after graduation she got her first job at Networks Electronics making tubes for guided missiles, bought a car, and then rented an apartment. She was attending church one Sunday with a “cute hat” on when a soldier boy from Montana spotted her. It wasn’t long before love blossomed. On February 1, 1958, Mom married Dad, Bill Thomas from Elliston, MT. They had 65 adventurous and wonderful years together.
The young couple moved to Montana, with the promise to the bride of a black horse. The horse took a number of years to materialize, but finally a black Morgan named Rocky entered the family. Except for a couple years in California where Bill was going to Farrier school, Marilyn and Bill lived in Elliston all their married lives, but, having been raised in Redondo Beach, Mom forever had a great love of warm weather and the ocean. She traveled back every year to spend time there with family.
Four children were born to this union, Colleen Sue in 1959, Laura Marie in 1960 Belinda (Lynn) Lou in 1961 and William (Billy) Riley in 1966. Mom was a devoted and loving wife and mother.
Through the years Mom had jobs outside the home. She was a Head Start teacher at the Elliston Grade School, a waitress at Frontier Town, a tree planter and brush piler for the Forest Service. Her favorite job was storekeeper and weather station attendant at the Elliston Store which she and Dad owned for many years. She always enjoyed visiting with the variety of people who came through the door.
Our mom was kind and gentle. She loved music and dancing. Over the years she square danced, clogged, tap danced, line danced, with friends and family or in group performances. She was always ready for fun – a party, a dance, a trip, or any new craft she could learn. She was also adventurous and over the years rode horses, biked, cross country skied, hiked, and loved huckleberry picking. Her long winter indoor projects were knitting, crocheting, playing the piano, and writing. She and Dad co-authored a book, “Elliston Days Gone By”. She also volunteered and was involved in many Elliston community events.
Being a Nana was a true delight in Mom’s life. There were many sleepovers with special desserts. She always had a box of dress-up clothes and hats which inspired many little plays for the entertainment of the family. Time with Nana and Bomps is a treasured memory for each grandchild.
Mom was a devout Catholic. She was a member of St. Theodore’s Catholic Church in Avon and wherever and whenever needed, she volunteered her help. Our station wagon was always full of Elliston kids being transported to catechism classes where she was also a teacher. She continually strived to grow in her faith journey, and she became a Benedictine Oblate in 2003. Her faith life was an inspiration to her family and many others.
Mom passed away in her home on Good Friday surrounded by her loving and devoted family. Thank you, Mom, for being such an amazing role model for us all. Your gentle spirit, faith-life and love will live on with us forever.
Marilyn is survived by her husband, Bill, and their children, Colleen and John Quigley, Laura and Steve Marks, Lynn and John Price, Billy and Missi Thomas. She is also survived by her brother, Larry and his wife Margie; sisters-in-law Sherry, Susie, and Cheryl; thirteen grandchildren, twenty-seven great grandchildren, one great, great granddaughter; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents, John and Loretta; sister Kay; grandchildren Jory, Sammi Jo, Isaac, Benjamin, and Maria; brothers-in-law Joe, Jim, Bruce and Bob; nephew’s Barney, Wiley, Danny, Joey and niece Carrie.
Memorials in Marilyn’s name can be made to St. Theodore Mission, PO Box 786, Deer Lodge, MT 59722 or Elliston EMS, PO Box 5, Elliston, MT 59728.
There will be a vigil service at 6:00 pm on April 13th at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave., Helena. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 1:00 pm on April 14th at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 605 Clark Street in Deer Lodge. Burial will follow at the Elliston Cemetery with a reception at the Elliston Gym.