Bedford teen was passionate about dancing, thought as the ‘eternal Clara’

Riley Wolf was passionate about many things: her family and friends, her studies and helping others.

She was especially passionate about ballet, and like many other dancers, she enthusiastically prepared for the annual performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Two years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, and despite surgery and medical treatments, she continued dancing. A recent stay in hospice for pain management made her realize she wouldn’t be able to perform this season, but she still hoped to watch her friends dance and help backstage. Even that wasn’t meant to be, as the 15-year-old Bedford High School freshman succumbed to her illness on Sunday, Dec. 1.

Patricia Lavoie, artistic director and owner of the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater and Youth Ballet where Riley danced, faced the difficult task of informing the dancers of their friend’s passing right after the curtain dropped on their final “Nutcracker” performance on Sunday afternoon.

“Riley was so close with these girls,” Lavoie said. “She was very private about her journey with cancer, and we didn’t pry. She was scheduled to perform in ‘The Nutcracker.’ She was in the company and came to rehearsals. She knew her health was not where she wanted it to be, but she was doing her best to participate in class. We wanted her to be with us – she was part of our family. She had unbelievable strength and courage and was always caring for those around her. We are all devastated.”

Lavoie said one of the parents at Sunday’s performance described her as “the eternal Clara.” Riley played Clara in 2011, when she was 13.

“She was the consummate Clara,” Lavoie said, “and I think she would like to be remembered as our Clara. I will always remember her smile.”

Riley is survived by her parents Dave and Terry, her sister, Reagan, a seventh-grader at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School, and her brother, Ronan, a third-grader at Riddle Brook Elementary School. Terry Wolf has served on the Bedford School Board since 2006 and is currently chairwoman.

Those close to Riley said she lived every day to the fullest, continuing with dance classes, visits with friends, mani/pedis and holiday shopping and preparations right until the very end of her illness.

“Riley will be remembered for her fierce determination, wicked sense of humor, love of ballet and grace in impossible circumstances,” her mother said in an email informing close friends of Riley’s passing on Sunday.

School Board Member Cindy Chagnon said the Wolf family went to California this fall to visit the set of television comedy “Modern Family,” thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“It was a positive thing in a tough time,” Chagnon said. “You could not have found a more beautiful, talented and intelligent person than Riley. I cannot visualize anyone who was more positive and getting joy out of life.”

In addition to her dancing, Chagnon said many area residents know Riley from Bedford Bluffs, where she worked as a babysitter for several years.

In lieu of flowers, the family has established a scholarship in Riley’s name to recognize a dancer at SNHDT who shares the same passion for ballet that she did. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Southern NH Youth Ballet/Riley Wolf, P.O. Box 10286, Bedford, NH 03110.