Saturday, August 31, 2019


After my mom died in 2015, my father decided to write his own obituary. When he passed on August 15th, my sister Holly expanded on Dad's piece and the obituary appeared in several newspapers. When it was time for me to write the eulogy, I decided to build on the wonderful words of my talented dad and sister. What follows is the eulogy I read at his funeral on August 22, 2019.

Our dad, Rick Ricci, was a really remarkable man. Bright, ambitious, loving, and adventurous, Dad was born in Bristol, Connecticut in July of 1926. He had a can do spirit that was unparalleled. Even as a 14-year old boy in 1940, Dad stood out. That year, he sold a record number of new subscriptions to the Hartford Courant. As a result, he joined a group of 40 other young newspaper carriers who won an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to attend President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration. Dad went on to compose an essay about his impressions of the trip, and that won him first prize in the Hartford Courant’s essay contest. He took home ten dollars and the honor of having his picture in the newspaper. 

Four years later, in 1944, he was drafted into the US Army. He sailed to Europe in early 1945 on the SS Île de France and joined the 94thInfantry Division, which was attached to General Patton’s Third Army during the Rhineland campaign in Germany. As a military policeman, Dad used to say that he drove military big shots around in a jeep.

Dad was adventurous and after the war he travelled. In early 1946, still an MP, he applied for a security assignment in Africa with the US Civil Service. He was honorably discharged in Casablanca, French Morocco after 23 months of active military duty. After his discharge, he was assigned security duty at an American Army Base in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. 

Dad was forward thinking and he read a lot. When he got back to the states after the war, he realized that electronics was going to be the industry of the future. He travelled to Chicago and Detroit to attend electronics technical schools. He earned his FCC First Class Radio-Telephone license in 1948 and accepted a job as a transmitter operator and studio engineer at WBIS, Bristol’s new AM radio station. Dad could build anything. And during his time at WBIS, he designed and built many specialized pieces of electronic equipment for the station. He became Chief Engineer in 1953. I remember loving the fact that on Sunday mornings, I could hear Dad talking on the radio while magically he was still at home asleep in bed. 

Dad made what he called the second most important decision of his life in 1957. That’s when he moved into the computer age by taking a job as a Customer Service Engineer in IBM’s Field Service Division in Hartford, CT. In that job, he helped maintain and repair IBM’s largest mainframe computers. In 1960 Dad was promoted to Plant Technical Operations in IBM’s Poughkeepsie, NY plant. There, he served as a Service Planning Representative, coordinating equipment repair problems for various out-of-town customer accounts and creating and implementing new service techniques. 

In 1968, at age 42, he was transferred to IBM’s Product Publications division as an Engineering Technical Writer, producing maintenance and repair manuals for IBM’s newly developed systems. Eventually he was promoted to Senior Publications Planner for Advanced New Systems documentation. He retired after 30 years of service with IBM, but later returned to work as a consultant at the main plant in Poughkeepsie. Meanwhile, Dad bought us our very first personal computers.

Dad always said that joining IBM was the second most important decision in his life. But he made it clear that his most important decision by far was asking the love of his life, Clementina Dena Rotondo, to marry him in 1949. Rick and Dena celebrated 66 happy and fulfilling years together, raising a family and creating warm and welcoming homes in Bristol, CT, Pleasant Valley, NY, and finally Pittsfield, MA. 

As I said, Dad was brave and had an incredible can do spirit. In 1951, with virtually no money and not a lot of building experience, he decided he would build his growing family a new home on a mountain in Bristol, Connecticut. It was ingenious how it worked. The bank gave Dad what’s called a builder’s loan to dig and pour the foundation. Then the bank came out to inspect it; satisfied with his progress, they gave him a second loan, to begin construction. And on and on. That was a wonderful house. He also was generous, helping his brothers-in-law and other family members wire their houses too.

When we moved to Poughkeepsie, Dad quickly realized there wasn’t enough water in the well to support a family of four children. What did he do? He turned to the Roman Empire for inspiration. He built a large cistern out of cinder blocks and cement. That cistern – which he proudly displayed to anyone who was interested – held rainwater which we used for toilets and the washing machine.

 Throughout his lifetime, Dad’s special talent was designing and building things. My sister Holly recently found a drawer full of plans for houses that might have been. My mom sometimes referred to him as a mole because he spent so many happy hours in the basements of his large workshops in both Pleasant Valley and Pittsfield. The pieces he created – furniture, toys, Christmas ornaments -- are all family treasures. In the last few years at Daybrook Village, when he could no longer see well enough to cut wood, Dad became known as the “Cardboard King,” because he created a variety of useful pieces out of the many AMAZON packing boxes that daughter Holly had sent to his apartment.

Dad was absolutely devastated when he lost Mom very suddenly in October 2015. Mom was the quintessential loving and devoted wife and mother. At that point, Dad turned to us kids for solace, and we turned toward him. He often said that his children were his salvation in his final years. And so too were his amazing grandchildren, on whom he doted endlessly. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his grandchildren, and that included traveling to California in 2016 to see his oldest granddaughter Sarah Donohue marry Billy DiCenzo, and Denver a year later for Lindsay Kirsch’s wedding with Geoffrey Kaatz.

Imagine Dad’s delight at having his first great grandson, Ronan Dante Guggenheim, and just as he passed, his brand new great granddaughters, Dani Marcella Guggenheim, and Lily Katherine Scott, whose parents, Lauren and Jay Scott, just got home from the hospital.

While living at Daybrook Village these last three and a half years, Dad had a lot of time to reminisce about his life. He grew up in a very large, loving and boisterous family. He used to tell us about his idyllic boyhood, romping around in the woods behind Grandma Albina and Grandpa Angelo’s backyard on Crown Street, playing with firecrackers and other dangerous objects. Dad always laughed when he recalled the hell that he raised as a kid with his brother Bob and his favorite cousins Bill Moran and John Ingellis. 

Throughout his life, Dad was curious. He always had bounteous gardens. He grew enough Rose of Sharons to populate the whole neighborhood. (One of Dad's beautiful violet Rose of Sharons is now growing in Sweden at the house of dear friends of Dad and Mom.) Dad read voraciously and was open to all kinds of ideas.He loved music (particularly opera and the Big Bands),

and crossword and jigsaw puzzles. He loved playing Poker and Setback, and he faithfully did the Daily Jumble with his wife and daughters. He was also an avid NFL and college football fan, loved watching golf on TV, and most of all, he was a diehard fan of the New York Yankees.  But he did permit his granddaughter Jocelyn to marry a diehard Red Sox fan, Evan Guggenheim.

If there’s one thing I want to leave you with, it’s this: this tiny bird. A couple of years ago, Dad got into perusing catalogues big time. One day he decided to buy each of the women in the family a tiny ceramic bird. Of course, he improved on those birds by gluing cardboard underneath them so that they would be more stable. 

That was my Dad, creative and loving till the very end. We’re going to miss you Dad.  He adored his family and we adored him. I am so very proud and fortunate that I could call him father.

Dad appears here in a photo with grandson Noah Kirsch. The second photo is from my wedding, 41 years ago tomorrow, September 2, 1978. The third photo has dad at age 60 holding my daughter Lindsay, who will be 33 in October.

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