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Morris Park funeral director retires; sells business

Bronx Times

It’s the end of an era for Ruggiero & Sons Funeral Home.

After 85 years in the Morris Park community, the family-run business has been sold to a former employee.

New owner Joseph Lucchese will rename it the Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home.

For funeral director and businessman Bobby Ruggiero, retiring from his Morris Park business was bittersweet.

“Life’s been like a hurricane,” said Ruggiero, in the business since 1965.

He thought he could keep the name alive by passing the torch to his 17-year old son Nicky.

“I asked Nick, ‘Do you want to go to med school and start training how to be a funeral director?” said Ruggiero. “He says, ‘Dad I want to be a US Marshal’.”

His other son Christopher also wasn’t interested.

“With my son going off to college, what’s left?” said Ruggiero.

Another sign was a series of deaths that came “one right after the other.”

The first happened on Thanksgiving morning of 2008 to his father Vincent, the home’s funeral director for 55 years.

“Dad fell down the stairs, broke his neck,” recalled Ruggiero.

Soon his brother died in 2010, and then his mother last year.

Then health issues afflicted his wife and business partner, Tina.

But his “coup de grace” was exhaustion. He knew it was time to throw in the towel after a middle-of-the- night call for a pick up at a nursing home.

“I’m standing in the rain waiting for the guard to unlock the door, and at 60 I’m saying, ‘What the hell am I doing this for?’” said Ruggiero.

He decided to end a 135-year-old family business opened in Brooklyn by Ruggiero’s great-great grandfather Francesco.

He interviewed several prospective buyers until he met with Joseph Lucchese, a former employee who made his living as a funeral director in Westchester.

On top of an offer, Lucchese gave Ruggiero a 5-year business plan, as requested. Ruggiero was impressed.

“Joey’s very proficient with himself,” said Ruggiero.

“I had my mind made up in 30 seconds,” said Lucchese, a Morris Park resident.

Ruggiero is now spending time organizing a Morris Park Business Improvement District, in the works for the several years.

He’s now head of the Morris Park Business Alliance, but feels it’s a good time to ramp up the BID.

“My stepping back from the funeral home is going to free me up from doing more for the BID,” said Ruggiero.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or email dcruz@cnglocal.com.

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