Former Niskayuna Town Supervisor Edwin D. Reilly Jr., 86, died Aug. 1 at Ellis Hospital.
Flags in front of Niskayuna Town Hall off Nott Street East on Thursday were lowered to half-staff and were to remain in that position through Friday.
“He is inextricably linked to the town of Niskayuna,” said town Supervisor Yasmine Syed. “After I was elected, he gave me some great advice on how to govern.
“We sort of paralleled each other. When he took over, he was a Democrat with all Republicans, and I conversely was a Republican with all Democrats, so I really valued his insight. I appreciated that he did that.”
Reilly was born in Troy and lived in Niskayuna for more than 50 years. He served as town supervisor from 1970 to 1979, and from 1989 until 1997.
In 1969, Reilly became the first Democrat elected to the Town Board in the 20th Century.
Reilly was a professor of computer science at the University at Albany, retiring in 1991.
He was a past president of the Schenectady County Historical Society and was the county historian until his death. Reilly also contributed to the opinion section of The Daily Gazette.
Reilly was valedictorian of the Class of 1950 at Troy’s Catholic Central High School.
He was an ROTC graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After a brief period of work at General Electric’s R&D Center in Niskayuna, he was called to active duty and spent two years in Washington with the National Security Agency, where he held top-secret cryptographic clearance.
Reilly later worked nine years at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna and joined the University at Albany in 1965, founding and directing the university’s computing center. He later founded and became first chairman of UAlbany’s computer science department.
Reilly’s daughter, Diane Percy, is currently Niskayuna’s receiver of taxes.
“There is no one in recent memory who has had a greater impact on the town of Niskayuna than former supervisor Ed Reilly,” said Denise Murphy McGraw, a member of the Town Board, in an email. “He continued to have a positive impact until his final days through the advice he provided to his daughter Diane, me and other town officials. I will miss his wise counsel, quick smile and good nature.”
McGraw said Reilly was instrumental in bringing a new Town Hall building to Niskayuna.
“It was Supervisor Reilly’s vision, determination and commitment that brought Niskayuna our current Town Hall, which is not only the center of government, but is our community gathering place,” McGraw said.
“We had woefully outgrown our previous Town Hall when Ed spearheaded the $4.3 million effort to build a new Town Hall next to the high school,” she added. “The facility and surrounding property are now home to town offices, our gazebo that hosts dinner concerts, the annual Halloween parade and much more.”
Former state Sen. Hugh T. Farley remembered political days with Reilly. He served on the Niskayuna Town Board from 1970 through 1977.
“I knew him for 50 years,” Farley said. “We were professors together at the state university. We served on the Town Board together. I was very close to him and his family. We were of different parties but I always respected him. He was a wonderful, decent, honorable man.”
Farley remembered that Reilly was one of the earliest supporters for Jimmy Carter, the Georgia peanut farmer who won the presidency in 1976.
“He was a delegate for Carter; he supported Carter when it was very, very early on,” Farley said.
Frank Taormina worked with Reilly at the Schenectady County Historical Society.
“I was on the board when he was president,” said Taormina, himself a former society president. “He was one of those guys who was really very, very energetic and just seemed to have this disposition to go out of his way to be of service to people.”
Other local residents expressed their condolences on social media platform Facebook.
“Thank you to a fine gentleman who contributed so much to our wonderful Niskayuna community,” said Margaret Peggy Leonard. “He was involved in the community til the end.”
“He was a wonderful man who certainly helped to improve the quality of life for everyone in Niskayuna,” said Rowie Supp Taylor.
Reilly and his wife, Jean, raised six children.
A complete obituary will be published in Saturday’s editions of The Daily Gazette. Arrangements are by the Gleason Funeral Home.
Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.