Carol Riley O’Brien R.I.P.

Written by  //  August 12, 2021  //  Absent Friends  //  Comments Off on Carol Riley O’Brien R.I.P.

Carol was my dear friend, one-time roommate at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Newton, Massachusetts. She was very bright, but not a very good student, so we fell into a pattern of coaching sessions on weekends before exams. I often spent weekends with her and her family at their lovely house in Weston that Carol’s diminutive mother ruled with an iron hand. And her older brother Russell was a frequent visitor at my parents’ apartment; the unruly Russell adored my highly disciplined father. Carol was one of the few among us who had a car – and it was a convertible – so there were frequent escapades.
Later, as college students, Carol and I were both in Washington where I spent many happy hours with her and her soon-to-be-husband Miles. Their wedding was a simply magical affair, on a perfect September day; the ceremony in the beautiful St. Ignatius Church, and the reception at the house I had always loved. Our paths began to veer away from one another, but the telephone was Carol’s best friend and I did visit them at their home in Detroit in early ’66 (and saw young Miles in his crib). They moved to Florida, but we stayed connected, reunited at the Newton 25th reunion, and again when Miles and Carol brought Mrs Riley for a summer visit to Montreal. The last time we were together was when we visited them in Vero Beach in ’96 for a non-stop talk fest punctuated by the refrain of “Chapel of Love”, the theme of the video that (young) Miles and Aileen had chosen for the masterful video they had prepared for Carol & Miles’ 25th anniversary. And through all those years, our friendship was uninterrupted. I will miss her terribly and always expect the call on her birthday, January 11th.

Carol Riley O'Brien

Carol Aileen O’Brien, 74, died Dec. 6, 2011, at Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa.

She was born in Boston and lived in Vero Beach for 25 years, coming from Detroit.
She was a former manager of the Harold Grant Store, Vero Beach. She received her associate degree from Marymount College, Arlington, Va. She was a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Vero Beach; Junior League of Detroit; and committee for fundraising for the Action Auction for the Grosse Pointe Academy; and co-chairman of Tennis and Crumpets for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
Survivors include her husband of 53 years Miles O’Brien Jr. of Vero Beach; son, Miles O’Brien III of Chevy Chase, Md.; daughter, Aileen Graef of Vero Beach; brothers, Philip Riley of Wellesley, Mass., and Kevin Riley of Brighton, Mass.; and four grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her brother, Russell Riley Jr.
Memorial contributions may be made to Moffitt Cancer Center, 12902 Magnolia Drive, UTC-FOUND, Tampa, FL 33612-9416.
Services: A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, Vero Beach. Arrangements are by Strunk Funeral Home and Crematory Vero Beach. A guestbook is available at

On Dec 16, 2011, at 4:09 PM, Miles O’Brien, Jr., CLU wrote:
The Mass for Carol was celebrated yesterday and I thank those of you who were in attendance. Your presence was greatly appreciated. And I thank each and everyone one of you for your prayerful support
The Mass was said by Fr. Massaro who delivered a great homily. The Cantor, Dan Kroger’s selection of five hymns included two that were Irish and all that were beautiful. Our son, O’B, concluded the proceedings with a marvelous eulogy. All in all it was quite a send off for Carol. The only thing missing was a rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline that I couldn’t convince the church to use as a recessional song.
Once again, thanks and I love you all.

From: Miles OBrien
Sent: December-17-11 8:45 AM
Thanks for all of you love and support for my father. Here is the eulogy for those who could not be here. OB

I am not going to talk very much here…
I know Carol would not want me to unnecessarily delay the party.
Oh the stories we call can tell on that front…

I would like to talk about a day…a single day of the 27,357 days my mother experienced on the planet…no i didn’t count them…there is an app for that.
I wish there was an app to capture and bottle this particular day – if so I would probably be in rehab for drinking from it too much.

It was October 6, 1981 – I remember the day because Anwar Sadat had just been shot – guess that is the newsman in me.

I met her in New York – hitched a ride with some Georgetown pals who had wheels. It was one of those perfect autumn in New York days. A deep blue sky…a temperature which diminished the smell of the rotting garbage and urine…this was New York before Giuliani…it was a goldilocks day – just right..

I needed a pair of dress shoes, so naturally, she suggested we walk down fifth avenue and straight into Gucci.
I told her I wanted something else – a little less, well, pretentious – although I did not know what…

She looked at me a little cockeyed…decked out as she was in all the right brands…I think she wondered where I might have gone wrong.
She didn’t say much though and so we did something straight sons seldom do with their mothers…we shopped…

Boy did we shop… we walked – and we walked…down fifth avenue through Madison square park union square, Noho, Nolita, Soho – as for the shoes, no go. They were all too pointy, or platformed, or whatever – not designed for the straight son shopping with his mommy.

Actually, given the way she dressed me as a child – peter pan collars…monogrammed of course…there was a brief flirtation with a scarf for my hair – and the nick name Millie…I finally had to put my foot down and insist on long pants…for high school…

It was an eventful trip – we had to go into Bendels to look at handbags, tiffany’s to gawk at the hardware, St. Patrick’s to light some candles and we had to stop and give money to every homeless person we encountered.

As we walked , she shared her encyclopedic knowledge of Manhattan restaurants – none of which she had ever been to but she had read about in the New Yorker…or New York…or W…or people…but if you didn’t know better, you would have sworn she had been there.

This must have been a Riley trait – I was with her older brother Russell in a rough bar in Gloucester once – he started talking about his time as a Marine in Viet Nam…and how tough it had been during the battle of Khe San or something…all of this spun from his fertile imagination…no big deal normally…except there was a guy across the bar who overheard this – who was a bonafide vet – of that battle – and a marine…and he started telling stories and asking questions. I assumed this would not end well…but Russell had it all down to the companies and commanders…and convinced the real marine they were brothers in arms.

Back to our walk, Along the way, Carol shared a lot of memories of fun times she had experienced there in New York – always knowing precisely what she had been wearing at the time…down to the brand of underwear it seemed.

Finally..way downtown…her post polio gait started to slow – and I realized we needed to hop in a cab and head up town. Shoeless.

I really didn’t care…it had been such a surprisingly fun day shopping with mom. Sometimes the journey is what matters most, right? But Carol was never one to lose site of the objective as well. And I must say she seemed pretty satisfied…when we walked in the doors…at Gucci. Hey at least I was wearing long pants…

Life was not all perfect sunny Manhattan days for my mother…but whose life is? The best we can do is never forget to enjoy the journey – but not lose sight of our objectives either. That is harder than it may seem…but it [is] a lesson I take from my mother…

Tragically, less than a year later, Carol’s daughter Aileen followed her mother.

On Aug 24, 2012, at 11:36 AM, Miles O’Brien, Jr.,  wrote:
The hospice allows family pets and on Tuesday the girls brought their beautiful golden retriever, Jethro, to be with Aileen. The end result was a picture, taken by OB, of Jethro with front paws on the bed licking Aileen’s face right after she died at noon. OB sent the pic to his friend, Xeni Jardin, who was here and had returned to California on Monday. She posted it on her blog and the response has been explosive. Go see this touching moment. I strongly recommend you have a tissue at hand when you do so.
The Mass for Aileen will be 10:00, Saturday, September 8th at Holy Cross Church, A1A and Iris Lane, Vero Beach.
Contributions may be made to the Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast, 1110 35th Lane, Vero Beach FL 32960,
Thank you for your prayerful support. I love you all.

Nine years later, Miles O’Brien followed his daughter Aileen

July 21, 1935 – August 12, 2021
Miles M. O’Brien, Jr. died peacefully on August 12, 2021 at age 86 after contracting COVID-19 in the Sea Breeze Rehabilitation Facility where he was being treated for other chronic illnesses. He was born July 21, 1935 in Detroit and grew up in Grosse Pointe, MI, where he resided until November 1986 when he moved to Vero Beach, Florida.
He graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 1957 where he met his future wife, Carol Riley of Weston, MA, who was enrolled at Marymount College in Arlington, VA. They were married at St Ignatius Church, Newton MA, in September 1958 and settled in Grosse Pointe Farms.
There, they raised a son, Miles M. O’Brien, III, and a daughter, Aileen C. O’Brien.
After two years in retailing and three years in banking, Miles became a life insurance agent in 1963 and, twenty years later, a life insurance recruiter as well. He remained active in the business until 2012.
He was a private pilot who sparked a lifelong passion for flying in his son, an aviation analyst for CNN.
Miles was an active fundraiser for various charitable organizations including Bon Secours Hospital, The Grosse Pointe Academy, and Children’s Hospital of Michigan. He was also very active in his two parishes, St Paul in Grosse Pointe Farms and Holy Cross in Vero Beach, serving as a lector and lay Eucharistic minister.
For many years he took great pride and fulfillment in delivering the Eucharist to homebound members of the Holy Cross Parish. In his final hours, he found solace in their examples of peace, courage and joy at the end of their lives.
During the pandemic lockdown, he met the second love of his life. Jeanne Lawrence, at the Solaris Assisted Living Facility in Vero Beach. They made plans to be married, but she too contracted COVID in another rehabilitation facility and died in February of 2021.

He was also predeceased by his wife and daughter. Surviving family members include his son and four grandchildren, Aileen C. Graef of Washington, DC, Miles M. O’Brien, IV of Catania, Italy, Connery F. O’Brien of Brooklyn, NY and Katherine R. Graef of Jacksonville, FL.

Donations in the name of Miles M. O’Brien, Jr. may be made to The Visiting Nurses Association of the Treasure Coast at

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