Thomas A. Riley
December 17, 1938 ~ April 1, 2012
THOMAS A. RILEY
Thomas Alfred Riley, beloved husband, father, brother and retired Norwalk Police Lieutenant, joined his Lord and Savior on April 1, 2012 when he passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
The Bridgeport resident and husband of Deborah Lee Miller-Riley entered eternal rest after 73 years of providing joy and happiness to everyone he knew and touched.
Born December 17, 1938 in New Rochelle, N.Y., Tom was the oldest of five children born to Danella Frances Pugsley and Thomas Witfield Riley. He graduated from New Rochelle High School, where he was a 6-foot-5 all-state basketball player and also played football and competed in track.
He attended Oswego State Teachers College, but all roads led to the Norwalk Police Department where he joined the force on Sept. 1, 1962, and was at the time one of the few Black officers to serve in the city. Tom rose through ranks from patrolman, to detective in 1972, to sergeant to 1980, and finally to lieutenant in June 1983 until his retirement in May 1987. He was commended numerous times for outstanding police work.
During his quarter of a century with the NPD, the man known as “Big Tom” was a mentor to many, a big brother to others, and a father figure to some as he touched countless lives with his generosity, sincere concern for others and his desire to help each one become a better person.
“Tom and I worked together in Patrol, Tom and I worked together in the Detective Bureau, and when he retired I was a lieutenant with him,” Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling said. “I learned during my first years as a police officer so much from Tom and had so much respect for him.
“Two people really influenced me: My brother Richard, who was a police officer, and Tom Riley. In my mind, Tom was everything a police officer was meant to be. Tom loved his job, he loved people, and he was perhaps Norwalk’s first community police officer before community policing ever existed, In looking through his personal file, it could be an instructional manual on how to be an exceptional police officer and a caring human being. He was a good role model for young officers.”
Fred “Moose” Miller, the former head of the Detective Bureau, also had words of high praise for a former colleague.
“I brought him into the Bureau and we spent a long time together. We became very close, but he never addressed me with anything but ‘Captain,’ ” Miller recalled. “He was a good man and he did his job. The thing about him was he was a gentle guy. He was an uncle to all my children. He’s always been what a cop is all about.”
“It was evident he was proud to be a member of the Norwalk Police Department team,” Rilling added. “His smile would light up a room and he could bring calm to any situation with a joke or a smile. And if that didn’t work, his size didn’t hurt.
“He was a mountain of a man with the heart of a lamb.”
Following his retirement, Tom started a successful private investigation company in the 1990s from which he recently retired. At the time of his passing he was a part-time assistant manager for Pepper Street Storage Center in Monroe, where he developed many new friendships.
Tom had many passions, but none bigger than fishing. He would spend his days off navigating the waters of Long Island Sound in search of new places to fish. In fact, he began collecting fishing poles at tag sales from the time he was a young boy and would repair them and give them away to one of his buddies or just add them to his huge collection. In his later years, he also became a dog lover.
In addition to his wife, also a former Norwalk police sergeant, Tom Riley leaves behind to cherish his wonderful memory two daughters, Gloria Riley-Rodriguez and her husband Keith Gaillaird of North Haven, and Navy Lt. Catherine Elaine Riley and her husband Earl Gadoy of Florida; five grandchildren, Thomas (Brandon) Riley, Chrysten Riley, Keyanna Godoy, Earl G. Godoy Jr., and Joycelyn Godoy; and two great grandchildren, Logan Riley and Starr Riley.
He is also survived by two sisters, Elaine P. Boone and her husband Robert of Mount Vernon, Laura Lynn Riley of Mount Vernon, and a brother, James E. Riley of New Rochelle. He was predeceased by a brother, Reginald Riley.
The family will receive friends at Collins Funeral Home, 92 East Avenue, on Wednesday, April 4, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m..
Services will take place Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at the First Congregational Church on the Green, Park Street, Norwalk. Interment will follow in Riverside Cemetery, 81 Riverside Ave., Norwalk.