Jane Riley, 75, passed away at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after being ill since mid-December.
Originally from Fulton, Miss., Riley attended Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., and moved to Cobb to pursue her career in education in Marietta City Schools.
Close friends said Riley moved to the area during the 1960s.
She worked at West Side Elementary, Park Side Elementary, in the district office as a Title I Kindergarten coordinator and eventually spent her last 15 years at Hickory Hills Elementary School, serving as principal between 1974 to 1989.
“I found her to be a very dedicated educator,” said former West Side principal Reid Brown. “She really cared for the boys and girls that she worked with, and she really knew how to nurture her staff and lead them to work together well.”
Brown, who knew Riley since the 1960s, said her passing was a great loss.
“She’s going to be missed by all of her friends,” Brown said. “She meant so much to this area.”
Another dear friend of Riley’s was Marguerite Kilpatrick, whom the former principal hired as the media specialist at Hickory Hills in 1974.
“Jane was dedicated to the concept of children learning to read, one of the many reasons the media center was named for her and her love of libraries,” Kilpatrick said.
Upon retiring from the school district in 1989, the Hickory Hills library was named after her, a Jane Riley Day was declared in Marietta and a former U.S. congressman honored Riley for her service to education by recognizing her in the Congressional Record.
Riley never married, nor did she ever have children, but Kilpatrick said her longtime friend considered the thousands of students she taught as her children.
“Everybody that knew Jane has a Jane Riley story, and everyone I’ve talked to has told me such dear, sweet stories about her,” Kilpatrick said.
Outside of the school setting, Kilpatrick said Riley loved to cook and made the best caramel cake in the world and that she shared it generously with her friends.
“Jane has influenced so many people in the Marietta area, and she took such good care of so many people,” Kilpatrick said. “She was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known.”
She also said Riley has been a member of Eastside Baptist Church off Lower Roswell Road since the late 1980s, worked closely with the young people in the Awanas program, and also volunteered at area libraries, helping with book sales.
Two of Riley’s former students, Marietta City School Board Chair Randy Weiner and Marietta City Councilman Johnny Sinclair, said she will be missed greatly.
“I am so saddened to hear of her passing,” Weiner said. “She was a strong leader at Hickory Hills.”
Sinclair said she was part of his life until she passed away Friday.
“She took a great interest in every one of the kids in her schools,” he said. “She was a fantastic lady, devoted to the Marietta City Schools and has a left a legacy in the children she taught.”
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, whose three children also attended Hickory Hills during the 1980s, said Riley was a “terrific” administrator and person and a “great motivator.”
“She hired a tremendous staff there … molded a family and had high-quality teachers,” he said. “The school was terrific, and she had a major hand in it.”