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Columbia Missourian

Janet Riley loved animals, opened her home to family

By Jessica Thomas
April 24, 2013 | 7:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When Janet Riley was growing up, she used to ride a pony to school.

Her husband, Norman Riley, said she had a lifelong love for animals. She liked visiting the zoo and the horses at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis.

"She was just a full-on animal-lover," her niece Christina Storla said. "I think if she had her way she’d probably have about 20 cats. She wanted to make sure every one of them had a home."

Mrs. Riley died Monday, April 22, 2013, in Columbia. She was 79.

She was born Jan. 17, 1934, in Columbia to Joseph and Marjorie Higgins Simmons.

She married Norman Riley on Oct. 2, 1970, in Clark.

He said her big smile made her an inviting person.

"She liked to talk to different people and everything," Norman Riley said. "She was quite a communicator."

Norman Riley said he and his wife traveled throughout Missouri to Kansas City, Silver Dollar City in Branson and Six Flags in St. Louis. They especially liked to visit caves.

"We’ve been to most of the caves here in Missouri," Norman Riley said. "Some even had bats in them. It’d be hot outside and we’d get into the cave, and it would be nice and cool."

Mrs. Riley also loved children. She worked in childcare and always remembered to send birthday cards to her many nieces and nephews.

Storla, who has a twin sister, Christy Simmons, said her aunt and uncle would send them two different birthday cards.

"When you’re a twin, it’s special when you got something on your own," she said. "She thought enough to make sure we knew we weren’t loved as a couple, we were loved as individuals."

Storla remembers going to her aunt and uncle’s house for supper and chocolate cake. Her aunt had a cat clock with eyes that went back and forth, and Storla said she could stare the clock for hours.

"We always felt like we were at home when we walked through the door," she said. "We were always welcome."

Storla said she and her mother discussed how easy it was to be friends with Mrs. Riley.

"The best thing about her was you could talk to her about anything," she said. "She was a very loving and gentle lady."

Mrs. Riley is survived by her husband, Norman; and many nieces and nephews.

A brother and a sister died previously.

Visitation will be held noon Thursday at Nilson Funeral Home, 5611 St. Charles Road. Funeral services will follow at 1 p.m. at the funeral home.

Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Mid-Missouri chapter, 2400 Bluff Creek Drive, Columbia, MO 65201.

Condolences can be posted at

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.