A steady stream of visitors came to pay their respects to Anthony Ruggiero on Wednesday evening, a man known as a loving father, dedicated village employee, and supportive friend.
It was one of three visitations at Coffey Funeral home. Visitations continue today from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the funeral home.
Ruggiero, 47, had worked for the Village of Tarrytown for 29 years and was currently serving as the Road Maintenance Foreman with the Department of Public Works.
He was preparing to make dinner with his wife and his two daughters on Labor Day when he was called in to work to help investigate a sewage backup in the Sheldon Avenue neighborhood.
"They were gong to have dinner... He left and he never came home," said Brian Byrnes, a member of the Tarrytown Police Department and a close friend of Ruggiero who is acting as a spokesperson for the family.
Ruggiero was the first person down the manhole behind the Consolidated Engine Company headquarters at 177 Sheldon Avenue. He passed out, likely due to a lack of oxygen, and fell 15 feet down the manhole. John Kelly, a volunteer firefighter, attempted to rescue him but was also overcome by a lack of oxygen.
Ruggiero, a long-time resident and a graduate of Sleepy Hollow High School's Class of 1980, had deep roots in the community through an extensive network of friends, family members and co-workers. All were struggling to come to terms with losing Anthony in such an untimely tragedy.
"I am having a hard time with the words myself," Byrnes said. "Even outside of this, it would be hard to find something negative about say about Anthony."
Ruggiero leaves behind his wife, Ellen Fragiacomo Ruggiero and his daughters Andrea and Erica.
Ruggiero had recently come home from a weekend with his wife in Las Vegas – it was special occasion – they had not taken a trip to enjoy each other's company in some time.
Byrnes said that Ellen and her children wanted to express their deepest gratitude to everyone who tried to save Anthony on Monday evening.
"The first thing, the family would like to thank the police department and the fire department and all the rescuers that tied their best," Byrnes said. "They wanted to express their thanks. They know it's not a good day for them either."
The family also wanted to thank the community for the outpouring of love and support they had received.
Byrnes, who has known Ruggiero since he was 12 years old, had a friendship with Anthony that had only grown since that time.
"His wife and my wife are first cousins but they are more like sisters; you name it, we've done it together," he said.
Ruggiero was remembered for his outgoing personality and his love of big cigars and even bigger laughs. He enjoyed spending time working his garden and his yard.
But he was also one with a caring side and a firm dedication to his community. He was a 29-year active member and Ex- Captain of the Hope Hose Co. # 1 of the Tarrytown Fire Department. He was recently named an honorary chief of the department.
While Ruggiero and Kelly were both volunteer firemen, they were very different people. Yet, they had some similar defining character traits.
"You could call either one of them, any time of the day or night, and they would come help you," Byrnes said.
Ruggiero never shied away from work, and enjoyed going to his job everyday and having lunch with the crew.
Forward thinking friends have started up a college fund for Ruggiero's children. The Ruggiero Children's College Fund will help put his girls through college after high school. Those interested in supporting the effort can mail checks, made out to the fund, to Tarrytown's KeyBank at 75 N Broadway, Tarrytown. No walk-in check will be accepted. Alternatively, you can make a donation by sending a check to the fund c/o Byrnes, 7 Hickory Dr. New City, NY 10956.
The Village of Tarrytown is also accepting gifts and checks at the Treasurer's Office at Village Hall, One Depot Plaza, due to an overwhelming amount of inquiries. The distribution of the funds will be decided by the respective families. Checks may be made payable to the Village of Tarrytown.
Ruggiero's Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. on Friday at Transfiguration Church with interment to follow at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, but even after he is laid to rest, it will still be hard to let him go.
"I don't even know how to say it right, but it's going to be hard without him," Byrnes said.