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PITTSFIELD, MA – Edward M. Reilly died on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at his home with his family at his side. End of life came unexpectedly from undiagnosed cancer.
Ed was born in Pittsfield November 18, 1949, the son of William and Dorothy Reilly. A native of Pittsfield, Ed loved his community. He was elected the 34th Mayor of Pittsfield in November of 1991 – an ambition it is historically rumored to have begun at the age of six, that developed while helping at his father’s soda fountain at Reilly’s Variety Store, holding political conversations with customers. Ed went on to accomplish his life-long dream to serve three terms as Mayor of Pittsfield from 1992 to 1998.
Ed graduated from St. Joseph Central High School, Berkshire Community College, attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Ed’s college career at WPI was abruptly interrupted with the untimely death of his father; he returned home to assist family to keep his Dad’s store going. Following his graduation from UMass, he went on to earn his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Western New England Law School.
Ed’s legal career began in Pittsfield as a legal consultant in 1981, and two years later he was named Pittsfield City Solicitor. He was a Partner in the law firm Reder, Whalen, Sawyer & Reilly, and Town Counsel for several towns throughout Berkshire County. Following his terms as Mayor, he continued to practice municipal law. Ed was a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association Board of Directors, serving as its President in 1995-96.
Until his untimely passing, Ed was the Chairman of the Pittsfield Retirement Board.
Ed devoted a life of service to his community and his volunteerism was extensive serving on several boards. Among the many include Goodwill, The National Archives, the Berkshire Regional Transportation Association [BRTA], the Massachusetts Association of Contributory Retirement Systems [MACRS], Pittsfield Community Television [PCTV], the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association, and Chairman of the Pittsfield School Committee. Ed established Pittsfield’s First Night, a non-alcoholic New Year family event for six years, and revitalized the Pittsfield 4th of July Parade when lack of organization threatened to end this long-term annual event. He brought a needed transparency to the Mayor’s Office, and had a laser focus on constituents’ input and opinions, businesses, schools, city infrastructure, and accomplished notable upgrades.
In 1993, Mayor Reilly was honored to cut the ribbon at the dedication of the newly renovated Ralph J. Froio Senior Center. It was his decision to revitalize and save the vacant downtown Capitol Theatre building with this effort, moving the Froio Center to this location. This was one of the first of many projects of his administration. The Froio Senior Center serves as Ed’s legacy, and demonstrated his high regard and respect for community seniors.
Ed served as Vice President, Treasurer, and Trustee of The Berkshire Athenaeum from 1983-1998. He was honored by the Board with the establishment of the Edward M. Reilly Endowment in 1988 to recognize his strong commitment to Library service. The intent of the Endowment is to purchase works of the twentieth century with Berkshire County significance. Ed maintained as a Trustee, and as a board member of the Friends of the Athenaeum, up to the time of his unexpected passing.
Following the Covid pandemic, in 2021, a Celebration of Life ceremony was held at the Berkshire Athenaeum, to re-establish Ed’s commitment to the Library with local and state-wide legislators, family, and friends participating. A permanent plaque that honors Ed and his commitment to the City as Mayor and Trustee is located at the entrance to the History Department on the second floor. A civics booklet dedicated to Ed entitled “This Is Your City” that emphasizes the history of Pittsfield’s mayors and their contributions, was distributed and has become a permanent addition to Pittsfield’s Middle Schools’ curriculum.
Ed was a loyal and dedicated spectator at his children’s and grandchildren’s many school, theatrical, and sporting events. Particularly memorable was at an annual Pittsfield High School graduation ceremony at Tanglewood, as Mayor, Ed was proud to award his daughter Sara with her diploma. He enjoyed spending time with his family – among his favorites were games and trivia, and also cooking for major holidays, weekly family dinners, and daily meals. He had an infectious smile, an extraordinary memory, a quick wit with never-ending puns, and a particularly high regard for history, politics, reading, learning, education, the law, and his faith. Love for his family was his priority and his greatest joy.
On June 6, 2007, Ed received a successful live-donor kidney transplant, as part of the first four-way transplant performed at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, involving kidney donations from his wife Karen, altruistic donor Lydia Carollo, and back-up donor his daughter Sara. The second recipient was Calvin Denson of Springfield.
Ed married his best friend Karen Powers at St. Joseph Church on January 18, 1985. In addition to his wife, those left to cherish his memory are his daughters Sara Reilly Pieta and her husband Marcelo of Fort Washington, MD, Karenanne Reilly Baillargeon and her husband Robert of Pittsfield, his grandchildren Andrew and Rebecca, brother Michael Reilly of Hamden, CT, sister-in-law Kelly Markland and her husband John of Pittsfield, and several cousins including Eileen Halligan, Marilyn Kipp and her husband George, and many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, Ed was predeceased by his beloved in-laws Donald and Sally Powers of Pittsfield, and brother William, Jr. His sister Mary Ellen Reilly passed away on September 14, 2022.
Private family services were held Friday, March 22, 2019 at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield with arguably the most beautiful Mass celebrated in this magnificent church presided by Reverend Monsignor Michael Shershonovich, with immediate family and close friends in attendance.
On November 22, 2022, the Honorable Edward M. Reilly was inurned to eternal rest in the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel Mausoleum at St. Joseph Cemetery with tributes led by Monsignor Shershonovich, under the direction of the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home with whom Ed's care has been entrusted.
Memorial donations may be made in Ed’s memory to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the American Cancer Society, the Edward M. Reilly Endowment at the Berkshire Athenaeum, or the MSPCA at Nevins Farm Animals & Adoption Center in Memory of Angus Goodboy Reilly-Pieta, in care of the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home at 40 Maplewood Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 01201. To leave condolences or remembrances, visit online at firstname.lastname@example.org.