ForeverMissed

DONALD FRANCIS REILLY  Age 93

He was born October 15, 1927 to F.G. and Frances Reilly in Boston, Massachusetts.  After finishing high school in Boston, he served in the United States Army of Occupation in Japan from 1946 to 1948.  Upon discharge, he entered Boston College under the GI Bill, graduating in 1951 with a B.A. degree in Business Administration.

In 1955, in Washington D.C., he married the love of his life, Bernice (Bernie) L. Roberts, who was also a lifelong career civil servant at organizations including the OEO and AID.  They moved to a home in Lake Barcroft in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1964 where for many years they enjoyed entertaining friends and colleagues and taking them out on their pontoon boat.  Their marriage lasted nearly 54 years until her death in 2009. 

Moving soon after graduation to the Washington, DC metropolitan area (where he resided until joining his daughter in Seattle in 2019) he became one of the earliest Management Interns in the U.S. government.  After serving in the Navy Department, he transferred to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, where he took the first of several increasingly important management positions. In 1965 he became the first Executive Officer of the newly-created U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA).  He took leave during the 1969-1970 academic year to study in the Mid-Career Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University from which he received an M.A. degree in Public Administration.

In 1972 he became the third Deputy U.S. Commissioner on Aging. In that role during the next years he worked closely with Commissioner on Aging Arthur S. Flemming to implement the 1973 Amendments to the Older Americans Act, which created the National Network on Aging, as well as the 1972 legislation, which established the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program - a program that has provided hundreds of millions of home-delivered meals and meals served in congregate settings to the nation’s elderly.  

He was the epitome of a devoted public servant and career senior executive —-professional, hardworking, and fair, and a generous and thoughtful mentor to many young people.  He always believed that government and good policy could make a positive difference in people’s lives.

In the late 1970s he left federal service to become the Deputy Director of the National Council on Aging (NCoA), a position he occupied until his retirement in 1988.  NCoA was and is a leading, national non-profit organization helping older persons meet the challenges of aging in a variety of important ways.  He had many stories about his time in government and at NCoA, and loved the opportunities for new audiences once he moved to Seattle.

Don loved the water and was renowned for swimming laps nearly every day until his health no longer afforded him that pleasure, and whenever the weather permitted, he could be found chugging in his boat around his beloved Lake Barcroft.  There were also frequent trips to Bernie’s childhood vacation home on the Oregon Coast in Neskowin. 

Don loved Neskowin and spent many happy days there with family.  Neskowin was the west coast center for the family, a favorite place for R&R. He felt that any vacation was best spent near the water.  He and Bernie often looked for a warm beach in the winter.  For many years they travelled to Rincon Puerto Rico spending three months from early December to early March hosting a series of visits with friends and family.

Don remained acutely focused on the politics of Washington D.C..  He wove his comments on current affairs in with stories from his government service and his experience as an advocate for the elderly from his position leading NCoA.  One story he liked to tell was how, as a life-long Democrat, he was made a political appointee in the Nixon administration.  Then, he even managed to survive into the Carter administration by touting his contributions to the McGovern campaign.

His family and friends will remember him for his gentility, his kindness, his keen intelligence, his wit, his Jesuitical way of analyzing solutions to problems, his patience for other people’s ideas, and his ability to eat the most decadent desserts without ever gaining weight.

His passion for theater and movies was endless. There seemed to be no film ever made about which he could not find something good to say.  In the last 10 years and as his health permitted, he annually attended the Seattle International Film Festival, often seeing three films a day.  He made lists of films to order on Netflix or to see in a theatre.  Several such lists were found among his papers. 

His former colleagues always enjoyed his dry wit and still laugh at his various expressions. Given a distasteful directive, he would seriously raise the question: “Is this something worth falling on my sword over.”  Looking to give others motivation to get some task done he would declare an attendant circumstance “an action-forcing event” which absolutely required accomplishment of the task at hand.

He is survived by their only child, Carol Hepburn of Seattle Washington, their grandson, Matthew Hepburn of Somerville, Massachusetts, Donald’s sister, Ruth Gasperini of Alexandria Virginia, two nieces, Eve (Gasperini) Roberts  and Lisa Gasperini both of Alexandria, Virginia,   his nephew, James F. (Rob) Roberts and Rob’s wife Debra Bouchard of Pt. Townsend, Washington, and several great nieces and nephews

Charitable contributions may be made in his name to: Seattle Operation Nightwatch, an organization benefitting seniors with housing challenges  (www.Seattlenightwatch.org) or Bread for the City, an organization assisting low income residents of Washington, D.C. (https://breadforthecity.org).

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