Juli Riley, school and community volunteer, died peacefully at home on Friday after a nine-year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her family and friends, including her husband Mike Riley.
Recipient of The Riley Award in July, which was named after her husband, Juli lived in Charlotte County for 35 years and was known for her charitable endeavors and volunteer work for the Charlotte County Public Schools, which is where she met her husband.
During the award ceremony, Juli was described as becoming a school volunteer to have a positive impact on as many children as possible. She was noted for supporting just about every nonprofit or youth organization event in the community.
Best friends Cathi and Bill Dryburgh recently talked about their best friends, the Rileys.
“There was a great love between the two of them,” Bill said.
He said they went on vacations together, including “Nashville, Disney and the Keys.”
Bill said Juli “liked to laugh and have fun.”
He remembered her bravery in battling cancer. Never feeling sorry for herself, he said, in between bouts of her illness, Juli would return to helping others, working, and trying to have fun and enjoy her family.
Cathi Dryburgh had difficulty holding back tears when talking about her best friend.
“She was one of those rare individuals who cared more about helping other people than herself,” she said. “She was a very loyal friend; very trustworthy. She was always kind to everyone, always gentle, and a wonderful mother.”
The two couples attended various charity events, including the annual CARE ball.
Cathi said Juli had a great love for her daughters: Lura, Jessica, who gave Juli her first granddaughter, Emerson, and Sarah. But Mike’s daughter Lucinda, “considered Juli as her mother” and the love between them was strong as well.
Married on Nov. 5, 2011, Mike and Juli met in the school system; Mike is the district’s public information officer and community liaison. They had a memorable wedding reception at Laishley Park, Cathi recalled.
During the presentation of The Riley Award, the public came to know Juli better. For instance, in 2015, only weeks after surgery and a 15-day stay at the Moffitt Cancer Center, she competed in Dancing with the Charlotte Stars, where she won trophies in three categories, one of which was for performance and skill.
Her husband was the first recipient of The Riley Award in 2010; although it was named for him, he later told people it should have been named for Juli who he described as having the “heart of a lioness and the soul of a lamb.”
Riley himself is known for supporting numerous local charities and community projects, through volunteering his time, music and with his band, The BoogieMen.
Smugglers Enterprises Foundation, which allows recipients to designate a monetary award, gave Juli’s award money to Imagination Library in the sum of $5,000.
Cathi Dryburgh said a celebration of life for Juli will be announced in the near future, but that those who want to give a gift in her memory should make their donation to the Imagination Library by going to charlottecountyimagination library.org.