Melissa Reilly, a 32-year-old graduate student at Binghamton University, passed away after a brief illness on Friday, March 9.
She was born on May 12, 1979, to John and Marie Reilly, and was an older sister to Michelle and Jessica Reilly. She is survived by her young daughter, Julia Christine.
Reilly was working toward her master’s degree in social work at BU, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in human development from BU in 2008.
Reilly’s friends and coworkers shared their memories of Reilly.
Harlee Pratt, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in social work and public administration, said her close friend Reilly touched many people in her life.
“I will miss Melissa more than I can explain,” Pratt said. “Her caring heart and strength will be missed by so many people. She has impacted so many people in the short time she was with us, and I am a much better person for having known her. Melissa was so unique in so many ways. She had such a contagious laugh. It was half-goofy and was as genuine as she was.”
Julia Kochmer-Payne, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in social work, said Reilly will be missed.
“After hearing of Melissa’s sudden illness, I felt the social work program lost a wonderful student, and the community lost an asset,” Kochmer-Payne said.
Kochmer-Payne said she related to Reilly because they were both mothers attending school.
“Me being a single mom myself, you remember others like you and we hope our kids appreciate all that we’re doing to make a better life for them and others,” Kochmer-Payne said.
Reilly was also a Hartford Fellow in the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, and worked a one-year internship with the Rural Health Network of South Central New York.
Paul Gould, coordinator of the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education and supervisor of Reilly’s internship, said he appreciated her passion.
“She brought her passion for working with older adults to our program, and quickly demonstrated exceptional capacity in working with adults with chronic health conditions,” Gould said. “Melissa was a genuine, warm and enthusiastic individual with a natural talent for working with others.”
Gould said Reilly was highly skilled at her internship and improved the lives of those she helped.
“[Melissa] was able to assess a client’s needs, partialize the work into manageable goals and help clients empower themselves to make lasting changes that enhanced their quality of life,” Gould said.
According to Gould, Reilly wanted to broaden her horizons beyond providing help to the elderly.
“Melissa planned to extend herself by working with school-aged children and families next year through the department’s SHARE Project,” Gould said.
Reilly worked in social services in the Binghamton Area for seven years at various places including ACHIEVE, the YWCA and Horace Mann Elementary School.
Josephine Allen, acting chair of BU’s social work department, said Reilly was a hard worker in every aspect of her life.
“Melissa was a devoted mother and daughter, and she balanced her academic career [and] her community service with the love and care she provided for her family,” Allen said.
Leo Wilton, department chair of human development at BU, said Reilly was a key member of the community.
“Communities were enriched by her presence,” Wilton said. “On each occasion of working with community members, Melissa was very caring and kind-hearted — often connecting with those around her in a thoughtful and meaningful manner.”
Stephanie Carneiro, a graduate student also pursuing a master’s degree in social work and public administration, remembered how close she was with Reilly.
“We balanced each other out: our age, humor, anxieties, comforts, etc.,” Carneiro wrote in an email. “Most of all, we understood each other, more like sisters than friends.”
Funeral services were held Monday at Thomas J. Shea Funeral Home in Binghamton. Reilly was buried at Spring Forest Cemetery the same day.