Janet Matz Riley of Edgartown died at home on August 17.

She was born on Dec. 7, 1925, in Milford, Conn. to John Frederick Matz and Grace Allard Matz.

Driven by curiosity, Janet had a passion for learning. A perennial student, she attended courses on diverse subjects including geology, art history and chemistry. While her children were in high school, she studied at Yale and Southern Connecticut State College. She authored her master’s thesis in 1972 on Distribution of Zooplankton with particular reference to Acartia Clausi and Acartia Tonsa in Branford Harbor.

She entered the University of Connecticut in the middle of World War II and began a five-year baccalaureate nursing program. As a nursing student, she discovered two of her life long loves: her husband and Martha’s Vineyard.

Her first Vineyard stay was at the Wesley House (now Summercamp) In Oak Bluffs in 1944. After hearing about the Vineyard from an uncle, she and lifelong friend and classmate Dotty Carter borrowed a car and made the daunting drive from Storrs to Woods Hole. Janet returned to the Vineyard many times. She and her husband bought a house in Edgartown in 1967, retiring to live there full time in 2008. On a double date, her impression of the Yale medical student she would marry, James Albert Riley, was of a bright, shy Virginia gentleman. She married James A. Riley in 1951 on the day of his graduation. Days later, the newlyweds packed the car and set off on a honeymoon drive across the country to San Diego, where he completed an internship specializing in surgery at the U.S. Naval Hospital.

In San Diego, Janet returned to college at the University of California. She followed her husband to University Hospital in Chapel Hill, N.C., then to Boston City Hospital, returning to nursing at each of his postings.

In 1956, they settled in Connecticut where James opened a private practice and Janet gave birth to their daughter, Carol. Their son, James B., was born three years later. They built a house in the woods in Woodbridge, Conn. Janet was active on town boards, focusing on environmental issues and as a member of the League of Women Voters.

She continued to take biology courses and her love of the ocean led to a concentration on marine zoology. She learned how to scuba dive and taught the rest of the family. The family was often involved in her pursuits. Her children remember jars of fruit flies during a genetics course. A microscope with a camera and a fish tank were carefully packed in the station wagon for summer treks to the Vineyard.

During the Vietnam War, she joined faculty and students to protect Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History during riots. Years later, she became a docent at the museum. She also traveled to schools across Connecticut.

Janet and her husband loved animals. In Edgartown, an abundance of ducks, pigeons, squirrels and skunks appreciated her decree that the bird feeder must never be empty.

After the Rileys moved full-time to Edgartown, she served on the board of directors of the Friends of Sengekontacket. In her final years, she was well known as the lady who visited the Edgartown waterfront on an electric scooter. She fought declining health vigorously, finding solace watching birds on Eel Pond and Katama Bay with her binoculars.

She is survived by a daughter Carol Berwind and her husband Michael Berwind of Edgartown; son James Riley of Arlington; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.