Meghan and Kelly Reilly, who were 6 and 5 years of age, were found dead in their father’s 1st-floor apartment in Montclair, N.J., on June 21 last year. Forty-six-year-old Thomas Reilly, a maintenance contractor originally from County Cavan, was also found dead in a different floor of the building.
Local police made the discovery when nursing student Theresa Reilly became alarmed after she’d gone to pick up Meghan and Kelly and couldn’t get a response at the house. Earlier in 2007, she’d won a temporary restraining order (later made permanent) against her husband, which mandated he stay at least 50 feet away from her at all times.
After the tragedy, friends and neighbors rallied around the distraught woman. When Denis Lenihan, a supervisor in the Probation Department in Essex County, read about her “dire financial situation,” he undertook to raise money on her behalf, running a half-marathon in Philadelphia in September, for instance, dedicated to the girls’ memory.
Lenihan, a married father with three daughters, had remembered Theresa Reilly from when she first came over from Ireland as a teenager with her mother, Mary Ward. “I saw them at a lot of Irish functions,” he told the Echo last August.
Now Lenihan is organizing the new scholarship fund with Reilly’s full blessing.
“It’s a way to have Meghan and Kelly involved in my life,” she told him over lunch last Saturday.
Lenihan said: “I had this idea originally, but it was put on the backburner because of Theresa’s own financial situation.
“This is a way of keeping their memory alive so that people won’t forget about them,” he added.
“I would like one boy and one girl from Our Lady of the Lake in Verona to benefit — to go on to private school in the area,” Lenihan said of the planned annual fund. Meghan had just graduated from the Verona kindergarten and Kelly was due to begin there.
Their bereaved mother is now “treading water,” in Lenihan’s words, spending much of her time on her nursing studies. “She’s doing one course this semester,” he said. “Obviously, it’s harder for her to stay focused.”
Lenihan, with the help of his family and friends, is organizing a benefit to launch the fund on Sunday, April 20, at Cryan’s Beef & Ale, 24 1st St., South Orange, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The suggested donation of $30 includes food, drink and entertainment. Checks may be made out to Our Lady of the Lake (O.L.L.) Scholarship Fund, and mailed to Meghan and Kelly Scholarship Fund, c/o Our Lady of the Lake, 32 Lakeside Ave., Verona, N.J. 07044. Denis Lenihan can be contacted at 973-432-8066.