NORWALK, Conn. Thomas Alfred Riley, a retired Norwalk Police Department lieutenant, died April 1 at St. Vincent's Hospital. He was 73.
Born Dec. 17, 1938 in New Rochelle, N.Y., he was the oldest of five children born to Danella Frances Pugsley and Thomas Witfield Riley. A Bridgeport resident, he was married to Deborah Lee Miller-Riley. He graduated from New Rochelle High School, where he was an all-state basketball player, football player and track competitor.
Riley attended Oswego State Teacher's College, but all roads led to the Norwalk Police Department. He joined the force on Sept. 1, 1962 and was one of the few black officers to serve in the city at the time. Known as "Big Tom," Riley rose through the ranks from patrolman to detective in 1972, sergeant in 1980 and lieutenant in June of 1983. He retired in May of 1987.
Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling worked with Riley up until his retirement.
"Tom loved his job, he loved people and he was perhaps Norwalk's first community police officer before community policing ever existed," Rilling said. "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."
Following his retirement, Riley started a private investigation company in the 1990s from which he recently retired. Most recently, he worked as a part-time assistant manager for Pepper Street Storage Center in Monroe. Riley 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 addition to his wife, Deborah, a former Norwalk police sergeant, Riley is survived by his daughters, Gloria Riley-Rodriguez and her husband Keith Gaillaird of North Haven, and US Navy Lt. Catherine Elaine Riley and her husband Earl Gadoy of Florida; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters, Elaine P. Boone and her husband Robert of Mt. Vernon, N.Y. and Laura Lynn Riley of Mt. Vernon and his brother, James E. Riley of New Rochelle. He was predeceased by his brother, Reginald Riley.
The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Collins Funeral Home in Norwalk. Services will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday at First Congregational Church on the Green in Norwalk. Interment will follow in Riverside Cemetery in Norwalk.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.