New York City’s colorful cast of characters is legendary, but few have led the eclectic, adventurous life of Richard M. (“Dick”) Ruggieri, whose lifelong love affair with NYC reads like a Valentine to the city he calls home.
Born and raised in Yorkville, Dick and his family, like so many others, clawed their way through the Great Depression, Dick finding diversion and friendship at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and its myriad social events and programs. Enamored with Big Band and swing music, dancing – and professional boxing, Dick’s tales of his encounters with boxing champions Max Baer and Jack Johnson, his duets with Al Jolson, Martha Raye (and many others) and his waltzing with Katherine Murray are riveting. No less so is the drama of the explosion in the North African campaign of WWII that cost Dick his sight – and eventually one of the world’s first successful cornea transplants.
Segue into marriage and family life, a career in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of advertising, and new homes in Hell’s Kitchen, Richmond Hill and Whitestone, and Dick’s escapades and adventures resonate with a flavor that is unique to New York City.