Nell Ruth Riley died July 23, 2022, at her home in Lexington, Kentucky, peacefully and in the care of her loving family. Nell was blessed with the opportunity, during her final days, to be with her loved ones and assure them of her love and devotion; to give thanks where due and instructions where needed. She was secure in the knowledge that she was going to “a better place” to be with her Lord.
Nell Riley was born on September 26, 1930, in Virgie, Pike County, Kentucky, to Charles Calhoun and Dicie Newsome Calhoun.
She is pre-deceased by her parents; her beloved husband, Niagara M. Riley; and her sister, Laura C. Walters.
She graduated from Virgie High School, where she was a cheerleader, and from Bowling Green Business University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After college, she returned to Pike County to work at the First National Bank in Pikeville.
Nell Ruth Calhoun met Niagara M. Riley at a dance in 1954. They married on January 15, 1955, and made their first home in an apartment by the Big Sandy River in Pikeville. The historic and devastating flood of 1957 forced them from their first home and they moved to the coal mining town of Wheelwright, Kentucky, where they raised their family. Nell did not work while her children, Benita and Jeff, were very young, but returned to the workforce in 1964 when both of her children were in school. She worked as a medical secretary for Daniel Boone Clinic, later the Regional Medical Clinic, located at McDowell Appalachian Regional Hospital. At a time when few mothers worked outside the home, Nell not only managed a full-time job but was also active as a Girl Scout leader, Bible School teacher, majorette sponsor, band parent, dance chaperone and concession stand worker at high school basketball games. She belonged to a Wednesday night bowling league in Wheelwright and that was her “night out on the town with the girls.”
Nell stopped working in 1985 when her husband Niagara retired and they moved to Lexington, where she joined two bowling leagues and, for a time, a square-dancing group. She was a life-long Democrat and served as the election officer sheriff in her precinct in Fayette County for several years. Her front yard was always full of candidate’s posters at election time and she was never shy about sharing her political opinions.
Nell loved the Kentucky Wildcats and was known as “The Queen of the Big Blue Nation” by her family and friends. She attended many basketball games in Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena, and traveled far and wide to watch her “boys” play ball, including going to the Final Four in Houston and to the Bahamas with the team. She especially loved Coach Cal and so enjoyed sitting behind the bench at games and watching him coach. A room in the Men’s Basketball practice gym was recently named “The Nell and Niagara Riley Viewing Deck” in her honor, through the loving generosity of her family.
More than anything else, Nell Riley loved her family and friends and was so loved in return. Words do not exist to express the love she showed her children, grand-children and great grand-children. She loved fiercely and unconditionally. She was a devoted mother, a doting MeeMee, an adoring mother-in-law, a loyal sister and a loving friend to so many. Her door was always open and her porch swing was just waiting for the next visitor. She enjoyed keeping up with her friends and family of all ages on Facebook and often communicated through text messages. At 91, she remained a modern woman.
Nell Ruth Riley is survived by her daughter, Benita Riley Kaminkow (Joseph) of Kiawah Island, SC and Las Vegas, NV and her son, Jeffrey Riley (Becky) of Lexington, KY. She is also survived by her grandchildren Whitney Slone Smith (Jeff Callahan), Lexington, KY; Andrew Lincoln Slone, Lexington, KY; Dr. Mikka Lynn Riley (Corey Lawson), Lexington, KY; Jacob Noger (Hannah), Lexington, KY; and Maggie Noger Coe (Derek), Clarkston, MI and great- grandchildren, Parker Brady Smith, Clay Callahan and Eleanor Neva Noger. She also leaves behind her “grandson of her heart” Geoffrey Dunn (Kristy); her “Dunn Girls”, Caroline Widmer (Justin), Mary Walker, Tatum and Hadley; her Kaminkow family: Cory, Ed and Tatum Butler; David, Courtney, Brady and Julian Kaminkow; and Katie Kaminkow; her sister, Alice Davis of Ft. Pierce, FL and her brother, Burton C. Calhoun of Harlan, KY. She is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews and close friends who mourn her passing, especially Stephanie Wireman, her constant companion and caregiver for the last eleven years of her life.
Visitation for Nell Ruth Riley will take place on Friday, July 29, 2022 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home at 3421 Harrodsburg Rd, Lexington, KY. A Memorial Service will be conducted by Rev. Arnold Turner immediately following visitation at 12:30 p.m. Burial will follow at Lexington Cemetery.
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A Memorial Tree was planted for Nell