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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dani's Naming Ceremony

By Jocelyn Guggenheim

Dani Marcella is named for grandparents, Dena and Melvin.

Dena was my grandmother. Her full name was Clementina Dena but everyone called her Dena or Dee. She was a warm and funny woman who spent her adult life taking care of her children, grandchildren and her husband Rick. Her first language was Italian but after years of speaking English in school she forgot most of it, save some often quipy, poignant or wise phrases we often called “Deeisms.”

Whenever I called she would say “Ah Jocelina che successe?” meaning Jocelyn what's up? She called me Jocelina Bella Girl so often when I was a child I thought that was my full name and introduced myself accordingly.  Her best “Deeisms” were more punchy with choice phrases about boys interested in her daughters or granddaughters or a favorite “inamore li chiege” when you told her she looked nice. “All the blind men love me,” she quipped. 

Dena loved her family, she loved babies, she was an incredible cook and baker, and she was soft and warm, creating a safe glow in her home and any home she entered. She was also strong, never one to back down when her family needed her support and resolve.

Dani means “God is my judge.” Dena was Catholic but when my mother, Claudia, told her that she was converting to Judaism and raising her children as Jews, Dena’s response was “there are many paths to God.” She wasn’t worried about what others thought of her or of my mother’s choice.

Our hope is that Dani inherits Dena’s warmth and humor, and that she always feels surrounded by the glow of love that Dena brought with her and bestowed on all of those around her.

By Evan Guggenheim

Melvin was my grandfather. He went by Mel, but to us he was “Poppy”. I remember taking long walks with Poppy and his walking sticks, chatting about life, literature, or whatever idea popped into his mind. He never treated us like little kids, except when he was smooshing our faces with scratchy beard kisses.

Poppy was as fearless as he was unconventional. He filled every room a booming opera of love and laughter. Poppy was a pacifist who fought in WWII, and a middle-aged Jew who helped start up an African-American studies program at the University of Hartford. Poppy was never afraid to buck trends and stereotypes to follow his passions.

When his colleagues refused to stop smoking at meetings he showed up with his WWII gas mask and wore it throughout the meeting. He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what he thought.

It was frustratingly difficult to find a female name with a meaning that wasn’t submissive or docile. Marcella means “Little Warrior” and was the name of Jocelyn’s great aunt, who was also an educator like Papi. We look forward to watching Dani, like her gregarious bearded namesake, tear down convention and make the world a better place.  

Monday, August 12, 2019

Noticing the Miracles

On a morning when I wake up                                                           
wanting some kind of miracle
to happen and nothing
in particular 
that's when I try just
to watch that desire
and breathe it away. 

And then this
thought occurs to me:
Maybe you are asking
for the wrong sort.
Maybe you don’t need the
flashy miracles where some
glowing angel appears or
you suddenly can fly or
you can speak to the dead
or predict the future
with or without tea leaves.


Maybe the point is
that miracles
are right here in these
fingers creating meaning
out of little black squiggles
tapped onto a white screen.

Or in a sunflower bigger
than a dinner plate.
Or in a smiling baby DANI
with toes like tiny pink pearls.
Feel the gentle air
expanding your lungs.
Smell the pine trees on a mountain –
just because I write the words.

All of it, every single thing
is miraculous

if you take the time to notice.

Thursday, August 08, 2019


Dearest Dani,
you are only
two days
old and yet
the wheel
of time has
come loose
inside your grandmother’s
spinning mind
and suddenly
everything has
kind of come
fast and past
have moved forward
and backward 
and stopped.
Dani, in my head
I see you
as the sweet
little human
pearl of flesh you are,
but also, quite suddenly,
at the same time,
I'm seeing you as a 
grande dame, a great
even older than me,
you becoming
someone akin
to my dad
who is 93, a great grandfather
living out the twilight of his life.
Such a darling little
divine face you
have today, you are a miracle and a
heavenly blessing and a gem
and honestly
words don’t begin
to capture the
magical mystery
that has brought your
I sit here on an
August day
in 2019.
The sun drifts
In and out
the clouds.
The air after
the rain is
cool and clean
and breezy.
And I pray
that this poetry may
help me to find
the courage to do
what I need to
do for my dear
father, who is not
having an easy time
of living or dying these days,
it’s so sad and heartbreaking.
He says over and over
that he would like to
die. But I would
rather think
of him living
if only just to meet you.
I would rather
eradicate death
from this moment
from this poem
and do what TS Eliot
did in his famous
poem “The Four Quartets,”
that is, find the “still point” of time:
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

I am
thinking of
you meeting
Dad when time is conquered,
when both of
you are 93, both of you are great
There is something
comforting in
thinking about
that meeting.
It takes life
and death
and tumbles
them together
so that they
come out calm.
It takes the sting
out of thinking
about my father’s death.
Instead, you two
would be sitting
on a wooden bench
in a late summer
garden, the bee balm
past but the roses and
bleeding heart and lilies
and black eyed Susans
still in bloom.
“Hello Ric,” you would say
as you put your cane aside
and sat down beside him.
And he would smile and
reach for your
delicately veined hand
and he would say,
“My darling Dani, did
you know that you
were named for
my beloved
wife, DINA?
Next month, on
September 17, 2019,
we would have been
married seventy, yes, 70
years. Oh that
used to seem
like so much time,
such a long long
ago but now that
I’m 93 and you are too
it isn’t much
time at all.”
And he would set one
hand gently on your head
and recall all the cascading
rolls of black shiny hair
that Dina had back on her wedding day.
And Dani, reaching
into a satin handbag,
you would say,
“Ric, do you remember
the poet T.S. Eliot?
That man would understand
the two of us meeting
like this today, so perhaps
I need to read you just a little from his
famous poem, “Burnt Norton,” the first of
the "Four Quartets."
Ric would smile and lean close to Dani
and he would be able to hear.
“Here is how it begins," she’d say:
"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.”
Then Dani would smile, and move
a stray gray hair from her forehead
and Ric would reach for her hand again,
just the way my sister Karen has
been doing of late whenever she
visits my father. 

And in those hands grasping,
the generations would
connect and collapse into
one time one place one
space of Infinite LOVE. 
Indeed time would be
conquered as we all
sat in the present moment
reveling in the garden and each other
and wondering
but not worrying where time went without us.

Saturday, August 03, 2019


Because the lawn is burnt to a crisp.
And I can’t seem to water the plants enough.
Just now I had the hose spraying the
oval garden
when suddenly big fat raindrops
splashed my neck and arms.
Ah, but will they continue?
Lately, it seems like the sky teases us
more and more often.
There it goes turning a mighty gray
and the wind comes up and the trees
start to bend and sway and not far away

mighty thunder rumbles

and a few bold drops come swizzling to the parched earth.
But see now how the drops are already drying up
on the bluestone patio.
And that sizzling sun is squeezing out between the clouds.
Heaven’s faucet has closed.
Perhaps if I pick up that hose again
and skip and twirl and bow and shuffle and howl,
the rain will start falling once more.

HURRAH, a few hours later the dance worked wonders!

What a blessing the fresh wet air is,

What a thoroughly delightful dousing we are getting!