Dianne Alfaro Riley

Dianne Alfaro Riley

“It is not how often you fall down — it is how often you get back up” is a phrase well suited to Dianne Alfaro Riley.

Dianne was born in England in the mid-1940s to an English nurse and an Argentinean father. The couple met in Blackpool, England, while her father was serving with the British Army.

For the record, there are two stories to how they met. Mrs. Alfaro claims they met dancing, and he claims she was his nurse. Whatever one is right, both are romantic memories.

In 1945, when Dianne was a year old, her father, Santiago (aka James), made a decision to return to Argentina. Dianne took her first steps on board the ship during the return. After 10 years under the Peron dictatorship, the decision to immigrate to the United States was made.

First, they moved to Canada for two years before entering the States in 1958. They settled in Pennsylvania in the West Chester area. By 1960, there were six Alfaro children — two boys and four girls.

Her brother, Michael, a noted area soccer player, was killed in a tragic car accident. It was her younger brother, Christopher, on whom much of her and her family’s energy focused. He suffered with mental illnesses for all his life. This illness does not just impact the person; it impacts the family.

Dianne wants to stress and encourage families not be afraid of bringing it out in the open — to talk about it and not to be afraid to reach out for help. Even with the death of Chris, the impact of his illness remains and has torn the family apart.

After a 30-year marriage, Dianne found herself a single mother of three sons. Having graduated from Wilkes College located in Wilkes Barre, Pa., with a B.A. in Spanish, she started to teach Spanish at the elementary level for the Lower Merion School District. The kids learned concepts in English and then again in language classes.

About 16 years ago, she moved to Oaks in order to shorten her commute. The area enabled her to bring her photography talents to a new level. Using a conventional Nikon 900 camera, she has captured the beauty just outside on her window and off her patio.

Her love of nature is captured and presented in several different ways. Dianne has written and published multiple books for her family and friends for which she did the photography. Most feature animals, birds and nature. Her work is stunning.

Dianne’s three sons are her joy and her heart. Youngest son Matthew is the executive director for the nearby Timothy School. Michael lives in Texas, and James in Virginia. There are five Riley grandchildren.

Learning and teaching best describe what Dianne is all about. The ups and downs in her life strengthened her to handle what is dealt to her.

Dianne really believes in not judging a book by its cover and finding out what is inside that cover. Also, she believes to “grow where you are.”

Among her many talents is cooking. She especially likes to cook foods coming from her background. She shares with us this favorite recipe of her creation.

Minted Lamb Meatballs

½ cup dry breadcrumbs

½ cup milk

1¼ lb. ground lamb

1 egg, beaten

3 cloves of fresh garlic — minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

¼ mint sauce

Chopped onions to taste (optional)

Soak breadcrumbs in milk for 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients. Form into balls 1 to 2 inches in size. Place in baking pan. Bake in a 400-degree preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Use along with your favorite dish. After baking, they freeze well.


Let Bette hear from you: banjack303@verizon.net. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.

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