Delta celebrates life of Sean Reilly

Students, faculty and community members gather to celebrate the life of a recently-departed student

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A mourning student brings flowers to vigil held in the quad in honor of former Delta student Sean Reilly. PHOTO BY RICHARD REYES

Longtime San Joaquin Delta College student, Activities Club president and known campus figure Sean Patrick Reilly died Aug. 24 after a short illness. He was 49.  

On Thursday, Sept. 5, a crowd of about 50 people met in the quad at Delta College at 7 p.m. to commemorate Reilly’s death and celebrate his life. The crowd was made up of young and old, students and non-students. 

A tastefully draped table sat in front of the West Forum steps, strewn with roses, lit votive candles and large pictures of Reilly.  

White taper candles were distributed among the crowd and carefully lit to hold aloft in memoriam during the service.  

Standing on the forum steps Fatima Hernandez, vice president of student affairs with Associated Students of Delta College, approached the microphone and welcomed everyone. 

She said she knew Sean from speech and debate class. 

“He was just a really phenomenal guy. He tried to make everyone else happy.  He went out of his way to make everyone feel included, even if he just met you. He was a very genuine person,” said Hernandez. 

Hernandez then led everyone in a moment of silence. 

Dr. Angela Tos, dean of Enrollment Services & Student Development approached the steps to speak. 

“He was one of the first students I met on campus and the way I would describe him as a light.  He was just so welcoming and friendly and very very kind … he had an ability to make people feel valued, and special, and he really cared about you guys,” said Tos. 

Tos then read comments from Vice President of Student Services Dr. Lisa Cooper-Wilkins, who couldn’t attend.

“He was a student leader of the highest caliber,” Cooper-Wilkins wrote. “My fondest memory will be of him on a megaphone standing by the koi pond calling out to his fellow students to get involved.  Sean was the embodiment of the type of Delta student we wish for.” 

Shayla Walker, director of Student Activities, approached and read aloud the poem “The 2 kinds of People” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 

“This reminded me of Sean because … he was always lifting the people around him, encouraging people, extending himself to his friends,” said Walker. “When you needed him, Sean was there … Live honorably, and honestly, and compassionately like he did.” 

Academic Senate President Kathleen Bruce spoke next. 

“I never met someone so optimistic before … I never heard him say a negative thing about a single person,” Bruce said. “And for an individual to be on this earth who never gossiped negatively about anybody, or never said a mean thing about somebody is just this true soul that we lost and that’s probably the element that I’ll miss the most about him, his encouragement and his positivity.” 

Several of Reilly’s friends approached the stage, one by one, to share the things they loved and missed most about him. 

Almost all of them shed tears while they spoke; several others stood nearby, ready to lend a comforting shoulder or hug when the tears inevitably came. 

The most common thread among all of their testimonials was that Reilly was kind, compassionate and outgoing.   

He was known for being cheerful, giving, and always willing to help a friend in need at a moment’s notice.  

At the end of the memorial service the crowd all sang “Don’t Stop Believin,” Reilly’s favorite song, and then joined hands in a communal prayer.

In his spare time, Reilly found time to act as an extra on three films and loved singing karaoke with his friends. 

Reilly’s friend David Arnold will host a celebration of life for Reilly on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 6 to11 p.m. 

It will be held at the Stockton Kids Club, 303 Olympic Circle, Stockton, CA. Friends are welcome to attend.