Summarized by Rosemary Pollock
Great-grandmother of 95 receives long awaited diploma
Deseret News 3Jun99 L5
By Jennifer Toomer-Cook: Deseret News staff writer
Virginia Riley, 84, mother of ten children, 55 grandchildren and 95
great-grandchildren, will have her moment of pomp and circumstance as
she dons her cap and gown and awaits the more than l60 members of her
family who will attend her graduation from the Horizonte Instruction and
Training Center. Riley grew up in Holladay, Utah where she attended
school in an old schoolhouse. She was required to leave school before
graduating, in order to care for her dying mother.
"I thought it would be nice to finish what I started," Riley said.
"At my age, I didn't know if my brain still worked like that." "I
thought it would be a fun surprise...three of (my children) wanted to
know if I was going to college. But I won't cross that bridge now," she
With the aid of her daughter, Virginia Clark, Riley began a six-month
endeavor to complete her schooling. "It took me a while to get myself
back together again," she said. Suggesting that her mother return to
school, Clark said, "There isn't any limitation. It's not a done deal.
If you had to drop out or made some mistake, it's not hopeless."
"People will help you."
Riley spent the major part of her life in caring for others. After
marrying her sweetheart, Herbert Riley, Virginia stayed home to raise l0
children. She spent 10 years as a teacher's aide while her children
were in school. She and Herbert served a mission for the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pennsylvannia Harrisburg area.
Five weeks after returning home, Herbert suffered a stroke and Virginia
cared for him for l4 years before his death in 1996.
Feeling at home at the Horizonte training center, Riley plunged into
English and history, but math presented an uphill climb. "I can digest
books like food," she said. She surprised her 20-year-old grandson with
her computer and word processing skills. As comfortable with e-mail and
the Internet as she was with the offset press and engraving machines she
used to operate, Riley would rather stick with her typewriter, which she
says, "works just fine, thank you."
"I'm grateful for what they're doing now for people to get an
education who want it," Riley said. "I've watched all 10 of my children
graduate. Now, they can watch me."