Richard Louis Ricci (“Rick”), 93, of 298 Jarvis Avenue, Holyoke, MA, passed away on August 15, 2019 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, MA.
A loving and devoted son of the late Albina C. and Angelo L. Ricci, Rick was born on July 25, 1926 in Bristol, CT and grew up surrounded by a very large and loving family. Based on the many stories he told about his early years in Bristol, it’s clear that Rick had an idyllic and adventurous boyhood, playing in the woods behind his parent’s house on Crown Street and generally raising hell with his brother Bob and cousins Bill and John.
While attending Bristol Technical High School, Rick held a variety of part-time jobs, including “soda jerk” and newspaper carrier for the Hartford Courant. In 1940, at age 14 - after selling a record number of new subscriptions - Rick was among a group of newspaper carriers who won an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to attend President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration. Rick’s impressions of the trip won first prize in an essay contest sponsored by the Hartford Courant, earning him ten dollars and the honor of having his picture in the newspaper.
In 1944, Rick was drafted into the US Army and trained at Camp Croft in South Carolina. He sailed to Europe in early 1945 on the SS Île de France and joined the 94th Infantry Division, which was attached to General Patton’s Third Army during the Rhineland campaign in Germany.
After the war in Europe ended, Rick joined the Military Police and was honorably discharged in Casablanca, French Morocco, North Africa after 23 months of active military duty. After his discharge, he was hired by the US Civil Service to work at an American Army Base in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa.
Rick returned to the US in 1946. At age 20, he felt that he was “too old” to go to college and was also very eager to begin his career and make his mark on the world. Because he had read that electronics would be the industry of the future, Rick made the decision to attend electronics technical schools in Chicago and Detroit. 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. During his time at WBIS, Rick built many specialized pieces of electronic equipment for the station and became Chief Engineer in 1953.
In 1957, Rick was hired by the Field Service Division of IBM in Hartford, CT. As a Customer Service Engineer, Rick helped to maintain and repair some of IBM’s largest mainframes. In 1960, he was promoted to Plant Technical Operations in Poughkeepsie, NY. 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, Rick transferred to IBM Product Publications to work as an Engineering Technical Writer in the production of maintenance and repair manuals on newly developed systems. Eventually he was promoted to Senior Publications Planner for Advanced New Systems documentation. Rick retired after 30 years of service with IBM, but later returned to work as a consultant at the main plant in Poughkeepsie.
Rick always said that joining IBM was the second most important decision in his life. But he made it clear that his best and most important decision by far was asking the love of his life, Clementina “Dena” Rotondo, to marry him in 1949. Rick and Dena had 66 happy and fulfilling years together, creating warm and welcoming homes in Bristol, CT, Pleasant Valley, NY, and finally Pittsfield, MA.
Rick was devastated when he lost his beloved wife in October 2015. He missed her warmth and loving companionship terribly and was further saddened by the realization that his children had suffered the unbearable loss of a woman who was the quintessential loving and devoted mother. Rick often said that his children were his salvation in his final years.
Throughout his lifetime, Rick’s special talent was creating and building things. He built his own three-bedroom house on Sherbrooke Street in Bristol, and added a screened-in porch, laundry room, bathroom, aluminum siding and a cistern to his house in Pleasant Valley. He made numerous major improvements to his home in Pittsfield, MA as well. Rick was also a very adept electrician and wired homes for himself and various family members in Connecticut.
A very talented carpenter, Rick spent many happy hours in his large workshops in both Pleasant Valley and Pittsfield. The pieces he created are family treasures. In his final years, when he could no longer do wood-working, Rick became known as the “Cardboard King” at his home at Day Brook Village because he created a variety of very clever and useful pieces out of the shipping boxes the maintenance crew always set aside for him.
A voracious reader with interests that are too numerous to mention, Rick’s favorite pastimes included music (particularly opera and the Big Bands), crossword and jigsaw puzzles, designing floor plans, playing cards (especially Poker and Setback), and doing the Daily Jumble (“The Words”) with his wife and daughters. He was also an avid NFL and college football fan, a big supporter of the UConn Huskies women's basketball team, loved watching golf on TV, and was a passionate and life-long fan of the New York Yankees.
Rick’s maternal great grandmother was Filomena Pera Scrivano of Paola, Italy, mother of his grandfather Pasquale Orzo. His maternal grandmother was Caterina (Amendola) Orzo.
Rick is survived by his son, Richard “Ric” C. Ricci and wife Fawn Walker of Quaker Hill, CT; three daughters, Claudia Ricci and husband Richard Kirsch of Great Barrington, MA, Karen A. Ricci and husband Dale Williams of Easthampton, MA, and Holly E. Ricci of New York, NY; his grandchildren, Sarah Donohue-DiCenso and husband, William, Lauren Donohue Scott and husband Jason, Jocelyn Kirsch Guggenheim and husband Evan, Lindsay Kirsch Kaatz and husband Geoff, and Noah Kirsch; his great-grandson, Ronen Dante Guggenheim and his two great-granddaughters, Dani Marcella Guggenheim and Lily Katherine Scott; his sister, (Mary) Catherine Dawidczyk of Clinton, CT, his brother, Paul Ricci, of Anaheim CA, and sister Elizabeth (Bette) Foeller and husband George of Hudson, IL., and sisters-in-law Joyce Rotondo, of Canton, CT, and Shirley Rotondo of South Windsor, CT; and many loving nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was predeceased by his brother, Robert Ricci, brother-in-law, Chester Dawidczyk, sister-in-law Ana Ricci, and his niece, Cynthia Dawidczyk Cooke.
Calling hours will be held at the Vincent Funeral Home, 880 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, CT on Thursday, August 22nd, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, closing with a memorial service at 1:00 PM. Burial will follow in St. Bernard's Cemetery in Tariffville, CT. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Hospice of the Fisher Home, 1165 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01002.
Please visit Rick's "Book of Memories" at www.vincentfuneralhome.com for online condolences.