“There is a realm where the
Rainbow never fades
And where the beautiful begins
Which now pass before us like shadows
To stay in our presence forever.
Kathleen Patricia Riess, beloved wife, mother and loyal friend to many, passed peacefully on Saturday, October 30, 2021, in her Walpole home surrounded by an abundance of family love. She is survived by her six children: August W. Riess lll of Foxboro MA, Mariah Riess of Dover, MA, Eileen Riess of Norwich, Vt, Kurt Riess of Mendon, MA, Kerry Riess of Norwich, VT and Eric Riess of Canton MA. She is also survived by thirteen grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, two great, great grandchild and numerous nieces and nephews. She was 94 years old.
Born to her adored parents, Thomas and Mariah Elizabeth McKenna, on December 31, 1926, Kathleen would tell you that she and her two sisters, Evelyn and Marion, and 2 brothers, Frank and John, had a “wonderful childhood.” A first generation, close knit, Irish immigrant family, “Mum’s” loyalty to those closest to her, her work ethic, and her Catholic faith shaped her approach to life.
Soon after graduating from the Assumption Parish High School, she became a telephone operator, then a well-respected supervisor at the New England Telephone Company. This was a position she returned to later in life once her children were grown.
A storied relationship began in 1946 when Mum met a handsome, very polite, smart, take-charge young man, Gus Riess. Their compatibility was built upon their shared Catholic faith and simply seeing “eye to eye” on seminal elements which they believed comprised successful relationships and a fulfilling life. Their marriage followed five years later. This partnership lasted sixty-nine years and sat rock-solid upon those shared core values and a lifelong, deep respect. Mum spent her last two years of life feeling the comfort of her beloved husband every day, often holding his strong hand, as they sat in recliners side-by-side.
Mum was vibrant and playful. She was a problem-solver. Mum was a participant in her community becoming one of Walpole’s first METCO parents, and a Sunday school teacher at her church, The Blessed Sacrament Parish. She was completely engaged in the careful raising of her six children. When her thirteen grandchildren began to arrive, she prioritized helping each busy family, providing endless loving and attentive hours guiding, playing, and caring for each of her children’s children. Mum cast a net of generosity well beyond her home to anyone in need. 48 Highland Street was open to all who sought a safe haven. “Friends of the kids” unable to live with their own parents, or “a friend of the kids” who needed a nurturing home in which to recover from malaria contracted during a Peace Corps assignment, all made their way to 48 Highland Street. Even the aged of Walpole found themselves under Mum’s careful eye. For many years and until she reached 91 years of age, she was a HESCO volunteer, delivering weekly Meals on Wheels to residents throughout the town of Walpole. She did not just drop off meals, she sought a relationship with every recipient. Her mission was one of care. She was attentive to the lonely and those who found themselves alone. Mum brought genuine interest to every person and family on her route. She let each know that they really mattered.
Mum loved poetry, children, and the “underdog.” She had an ongoing interest in politics and the many sides of social issues. She had a keen mind. Her kids thought she would have made a great litigator. She was a voracious reader with a natural curiosity and thirst for all things related to people and what made a child or an adult “tick.” She found laughter and fun in simple things. Her attention and friendship captured the love of people of all ages and walks of life. She extended kindness naturally. This quality, coupled with her vibrant spirit and extroverted nature, left Mum a valued friend to many.
Enduring memories include Mum’s enthusiastic participation in multiple road races throughout her 80s into her 90s. Her final Walpole Road Race, at age 91, was an event she refused to miss. A sweltering, hot day, Mum pushed, and I mean pushed herself to the end. Throughout the whole 3.1 mile distance, she exuberantly provided constant encouragement to all runners and walkers. Her vivacious expression masked the tremendous effort this “race” required. We still marvel at how in the world she withstood the extreme heat of that day! Once her mind was set, Mum was unstoppable.
How will we remember Kathleen Patricia Riess?
She was selfless and always “for you.” She was a woman with purity of purpose. While holding dear the values of integrity, loyalty, and kindness, she strove to impart these characteristics to her large family.
Living a long life allowed Mum to sit in the front row of her children’s and then her grandchildren’s lives. She watched each act with enthusiasm. She truly appreciated the attention and work that lay behind their many successes. Mum had a powerful intuitive sense for when her children or grandchildren were hurt or struggling. Gently, she let us all know our hurt was her hurt. She always looked to see what she could do to help. Her love and support, even in the face of differing viewpoints, was always expressed. Nothing inhibited her generous expression of unconditional love. You see, central to Mum’s spirit was an extraordinary trait: a deep and abiding capacity to genuinely hold an enduring connection. We could see and feel it and we all were touched by it.
During the final unfolding years of life, as is often the case when long-lived, Mum struggled to make sense of life happening around her. Many times the strength of her love for her family trumped this confusion. During her last weeks of life, one such incident captured the expression of Mum’s heart full of love: It had been a very sad and quiet day. She had eaten little, she continued unable to uphold her own weight, she’d spent most of the day in a deep sleep. As one of her sons tucked her into bed, he heard a clear, familiar voice, “Call and I will come.” Her son recognized this age-old promise Mum had spoken many times to each of her children. She repeated, “Call and I will come.” During her final days, no matter how failed her body, she made sure her son knew, if he needed her in any way, no questions asked, she would come. She knew these words would be passed on to her other children.
We will always remember her laughter, we will always remember her love, while we deeply miss her every day.
“Upon her passing the world lost a shining light and a force for good.”
Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend Kathy’s Mass of Christian Burial that will be celebrated in Blessed Sacrament Church, 10 Diamond Street, Walpole on Thursday, November 4, 2021 at 10:30 AM. Interment will follow in The Highland Cemetery in Dover.
Jeff’s Place, a bereavement center for kids and teens, provides a healing, safe harbor for kids who have lost a sibling or a parent.
Given Kathy’s love of children, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:
Jeff’s Place, 281 Pleasant St. Framingham, Ma 01701.