Nan first visited the Wood River Valley in the 1970s when she drove up from Los Angeles, Calif., with her then-boyfriend, Jim Riley, only to have his Volkswagen break down, extending their stay.
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She hated it here.
It took no time at all for that to change, as she made dear friendships that would last the rest of her life. She delighted local breakfasters for years while cooking at beloved spots like The Food Tree and The Hearthstone.
She and Riley purchased a home in Bellevue in 1978. They had their one and only child, Emily, in 1981. Finally, in 1983, they married on a terrace on Catalina Island while Riley’s younger sister kept their toddler away from the 100-foot drop by entertaining her with a Jane Fonda exercise video.
Life continued with its ups and downs. Nan earned her GED in 2000. She and Riley flirted with an active, healthy lifestyle after his heart attack in 2002, quitting smoking and enjoying long hikes in the surrounding mountains with their dog, Jester. Needless to say, he was the best dog anyone has ever had. She lost her husband in 2013 to a cruel combination of Parkinson’s and cancer, and she hit her rock bottom.
Salvation came when she needed it most in the form of a rehab center in Western Idaho. Beyond leading her to sobriety, her counselors and especially the other patients, whom she grew to love dearly, taught her that she didn’t need to live her life only for other people, indeed, that she couldn’t really care for other people unless she cared for herself. For the first time in her life, surrounded by people of all ages who were all openly experiencing the same struggle, Nan felt funny, intelligent, wise, important, valued and loved just for who she was.
With this gift, Nan entered the most peaceful and joyous years of her life. She volunteered for the Hailey Historical Society and The Hunger Coalition. She nurtured old friendships and made many new ones. And, boy, did she ever love her cats. She found her happily ever after.
Nan Riley succumbed to liver cancer at 8:20 am on Sunday, June 27. She was 71.
She was weird, wonderful and the best mom I could ever have wished for. If everyone’s mom loved them as completely and unconditionally as she loved me, this world would be a very different place. Thank you for everything, Mom.
A celebration of life will be organized for the end of the summer. Time and place will be posted in the Mountain Express and on Facebook.