HONOR • SERVE • LEAD
The Ruggieri family has lived in Chester County for generations. In 1911, my great-great grandparents passed through America’s Gateway, Ellis Island, and settled just north in Kennett Square. In 1922, my great uncle, Archie Ruggieri, was a founding member and first president of the Italian American Citizen’s League (IACL) of Kennett Square. Under his direction as president, it was decided that members would be able to obtain life insurance. This ensured that if members should die doing manual labor jobs, which were common at the time, their families would be cared for. I share this story because I believe that’s what community is all about—neighbors helping neighbors.
My grandfather served in the Army Air Corp (before it became the Air Force) during WWII, then he and my grandmother settled in Oxford where my mom and her siblings grew up and went to Oxford public schools. My parents were very young when they married. I was born at Chester County Hospital, and my first home was in a trailer in Landenberg. Life was difficult for my parents, and eventually they moved north where my mom’s parents’ lived. My grandparents owned a 46-acre farm called Green Acres—no joke. With a large field, a pasture, and a barn at the base of a small, forested mountain, it was a great place to be a kid. We had all sorts of animals, including horses, cows, calves, chickens, pigs, cats, dogs, birds, goats, and though I’m still not sure why, we even had a peacock. Green Acres wasn’t a moneymaker, but we grew corn and hay, and enjoyed farm fresh eggs and bacon for breakfast.
It was a simple life. Snowy winters were great for sledding, and spring blew in while kites flew high. Summer days seemed endless with sweet, yellow corn and bright, blue skies, and fall arrived with brisk air, a pumpkin patch, and nights under the stars. From my childhood, I developed great respect for our earth—our land, our water, our air, and our animals. I learned that we must care for our natural resources in order to ensure they care for us.
But like most of us, my childhood wasn’t all rainbows. I was 11 when my parents divorced. My mom and I stayed near the farm while my dad moved back to his family in the Avondale area. The divorce did have one upside; I spent summers at my dad’s parents’ home. The Ruggieri’s owned the Hill Top Inn (now Hilltop Crab House Restaurant and Bar) on Rt. 41. My cousins and I spent our days swimming, which makes growing kids very hungry. Then we ate lunch at the restaurant—my love of Wing Dings was born. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that lunch was more than a daily meal. I learned about the workings of a small business. I learned that small businesses are the life-blood of a community. A place to gather and share a meal and friendship makes a town, a home.
Summers never last as long as I’d hope, and soon I’d be back to school where my mom lived, Montoursville Area School District. If you’ve ever heard of Montoursville, it’s most likely because of TWA flight 800 that went down over New York in 1996. That flight had my school’s French club on it. Everyone died—the kids, the teachers, and the chaperones. Loss of life is tragic; loss of young life is even more so.
Two of the students who died that day were named Monica and Kim. They were in my graduating class. Because of the spelling of our last names, I always sat between them when placed alphabetically. After TWA 800, the whole town was grief-stricken—not only the families, but also the student body as a whole.
Our small community was shaken to its core, and we healed as best as we knew how—slowly and leaning on each other. We all found ways to remember both big and small. I adopted one remembrance ritual of my own that I still do today. Every morning when we’d pledge allegiance to the flag, I’d think of Monica and Kim. It’s a small way for me to keep their memory alive, and a way to honor them and the community. They were only 16 when they died. I now think of my own sons, and how can we, as a community, protect and support our children?
United States Air Force
When it came time to graduate from high school, I was a good student, but lacked direction. In my maternal grandfather’s footsteps, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I might have also been looking for a little adventure outside of rural life, and the Air Force certainly provided. I was 18 years and one month old when I swore my oath to defend the Nation and uphold our Constitution. With the recruiters, it was all cookies and juice before your swearing in. After, everything changes. They took me out back to the parking lot and said, “See all of those cigarette butts? Pick’em up.” That was the first lawful order I followed in the military. They have a saying, “To be a good leader, you first must be a good follower.” I became both a good follower and a good leader. I spent four years in the active duty, and six years in the PA Air National Guard out of Middletown, near Harrisburg. I am grateful for what the military taught me—honor, service, sacrifice, teamwork and leadership. For the first time, I became part of something much greater than myself.
I am grateful that the military made it possible for me to go to college. I value education. One important way to lift up our community is to open the doors of education to all. Whether its primary school, high school, technical school, university, or adult learners who want to improve their job skills, education is a fundamental key to a successful life. Great schools make great communities.
Penn State University
I graduated from Penn State University (PSU) with a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology. While I was at PSU, I worked at ResCom, the on campus residential computer support desk. I was a technician and then a manager there. I also met my lovely wife, Christina. When we left State College, our move would be brief. After working a year and half at the Boeing plant at Ridley Park, my next position was back at PSU in their Outreach Department while Christina studied for her Masters. My work at PSU was some the most rewarding of my career. PSU’s mission is a noble one—to provide educational opportunities for people to better themselves, their families, and their communities. I felt a great sense of purpose at Penn State. Every day, I knew I was making the world a better place. From PSU, Christina and I moved back to District 13 in London Grove, and I started work at Barclays. I was a technology metrics and reporting analyst and then a technology service manager. I am currently an Assistant Vice President of IT Service Management.
Meanwhile, we started a family. When my oldest son, Jack, was born, I spent the first six months of his life as his full time caregiver. This was the second time in my life that I felt like I was part of something greater than myself. Parenting is one of the most difficult, rewarding jobs in life. You literally pour all of yourself into another being so they can grow and succeed, and boy oh boy, it’s satisfying to watch them grow. My wife and sons have taught me to love more than I thought possible. They have taught me empathy and forgiveness.
My boys are my open heart running around. Because of them, I hope for the future. Because of them, I have a deep desire to shape a world that they can be proud to live in. And with this comes a sincere gratitude for my elders. I am thankful for my 92-year-old grandmother who along with my grandfather and my parents created an amazing life for me. I want them to live their lives to the fullest with dignity and respect and with the ability to enjoy the life they’ve built and remain in their homes.
This campaign is for you
For my family and my community, and with great enthusiasm, I enter into this campaign to be your next State Representative for District 13. As a veteran, I understand sacrifice. I know what it means to serve others with honor and distinction. I am an independent thinker, a leader, and a problem-solver, and when elected, I will work hard for you every single day I am in office. I will make your voice heard, your concerns known, and your needs a priority in Harrisburg. Join me. This campaign is for you.
Richard Ruggieri for PA 13
PO Box 12 • Oxford, PA 19363