Longtime selectman, Ricciardi, is remembered

Cabinet file photo Rosario Ricciardi, center, attends the rededication ceremony for Milford’s World War II Memorial. Ricciardi died Aug. 28.

MILFORD – The origin of his nickname is obscure, but what is clear is that Rosario “Sarooch” Ricciardi loved the town of Milford. The longtime selectman and World War II veteran was born in 1919, in a house on the corner of Mill and Cottage streets. He died on Aug. 28 in a Milford nursing home. Except for his war service, he never lived anywhere else, never wanted to live anywhere else.

“He just adored the town of Milford,” said his friend Ed Medlyn. And though in his declining years his eyesight was poor, Ricciardi loved to be driven around town and would always remark, “Doesn’t this look good, doesn’t that look good? Isn’t this a beautiful town?”

During World War II Ricciardi served in the U.S. Army, seeing action in New Guinea and in the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines, where about 10,000 American combatants were killed.

When Sgt. Ricciardi came home from the war, selectmen wanted him to be police chief.

He declined but served as selectman for 20 years and was also on the town budget committee and headed the Milford Bicentennial Parade Committee in the mid-1990s.

The Ricciardi-Hartshorn American Legion Post 23 was named after his uncle, who was killed in the second Battle of the Marne in World War I. Ricciardi was a past commander of the American Legion and member if the Milford VFW, the Historical Society, and instrumental in establishing the town’s World War II and Korean War memorials.

After his wife, Dorothy, died in 1993 he lived in apartments, including one on the Oval, over Andres’ Beauty Salon, and loved it there, said Medlyn, because he loved being in the thick of things.

The nickname “Sarooch,” he said, might have come from Andy Murphy, who was a Milford school janitor, as well as police chief and postman. As the story goes, one day Murphy asked for some of Ricciardi’s ice cream and the boy said no, and Murphy called him “Scrooge,” which somehow became twisted into Sarooch.

He loved the name, said Glenn Ricciardi, one of his four children. He would say, “I’m the only one in the world with that name.” And “he just loved the people of Milford.”

Jay Duffy, of Milford, said when he was young he learned from Ricciardi and from the late Robert Philbrick, a longtime town moderator, the value of integrity and service.

Duffy, now on the Labor Day Parade committee and part of the group planning a Vietnam war memorial at Keyes Park , once manned the sound equipment at Town Meetings. “Sarooch and Bob Philbrick showed the values I carry to this day,” he said.

Ricciardi’s boyish sense of humor stayed with him to the end. Not long before he died, Medlyn said, he went into his friend’s room at Crestwood Healthcare and asked what he was doing. “I’m playing hockey,” was the reply. “He was funny, funny,” said Medlyn, who owns Medlyn Motors on Elm Street and employed his friend at one point. “He told everyone I fired him.”

During the final summer concert of the season at Emerson Park last week, the American Legion Band honored Ricciardi. Conductor Charles Colletta asked for a moment of silence and then led the band playing taps, “Nearer My God to Thee” and the songs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland @cabinet.com.