Angelo A. “Rico” Russo, age 85, of Wilmington, died peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family on May 31, 2012.
Rico was born on July 3, 1926, in Burlington, MA. He was a cherished son of the late Angelo and Angelina (Aramando) Russo and was one of nine siblings. Rico grew up on the family farm in Burlington, part of a large, loving, and tight knit family. In 1942, at only the age of 16, he made an unsuccessful attempt to enlist in the U. S. Navy with his older brothers Freddie, Tony, Charlie, and Rudy. Rico later enlisted in the Navy on September 25, 1943 and began a long and impressive career with the Military, spanning two wars, and many years of honorable service to our Country.
Rico was initially sent to Norfolk, VA and attended Armed Guard School with the intention of being a gunner on Navy Ships. What should have been a 26 week course was crammed into a mere six weeks for a very dangerous job, and Rico took on his first assignment as a gunner aboard the S.S. Theodore Sedgwick. Rico’s first deployment took him through the Middle East, England, Northern France, and back to the United States. He was thrust into the heat of battle right away, trying desperately to get supplies to the troops, and saw much tragedy as a young sailor. His next assignment was aboard the S.S. Rosemont bound for the Mediterranean. They made their way through various ports in Italy and were confronted in battle by a few German U-boats and German air strikes. Rico’s experiences during WWII did not stop there as he also served on yet another armed naval cargo ship, the S.S. Thomas Sim Lee and traveled to Murmansk, Russia. He was discharged on April 17, 1946 and joined the Army National Guard later that year where he served until 1947.
Rico wanted to serve the country in each and every military branch, so that same year he joined the U.S. Air Force on October 28, 1947. He received training at Ft. Slocum Air Force Base in New Rochelle, New York. Following his training, Rico was assigned to Westover Air Force Base and then on to Travis Air Force Base in California. He served all over the Asiatic Pacific Theatre and was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where he attended Flight Steward School. Rico was part of the Military Air Transport Service, Pacific Air Command Division. He saw a lot of action during the Korean War and was there for the beginning of the Cold War where he was stationed in Germany and took part in the Berlin Air Lift. Rico received many commendations and medals for his bravery and time served during World War II and the Korean War. He was honorably discharged on November 6, 1951 and returned to his home and family. When Rico returned from the Korean War he immediately enlisted in the Woburn National Guard.
Rico returned to Burlington and on January 15, 1955, he married the “love of his life” Bernice M. Russo. Rico and Bernice moved to Wilmington over 40 years ago where they raised their children. Rico loved being a father and he was very active and involved. He coached Wilmington Pop Warner for many years and was Past President of the Club. Rico loved kids; he gave countless hours coaching and helping not only his children but the children of Wilmington. He was a role model and mentor to many, and in return he earned the love and respect of many children as well as their parents. When not coaching, Rico could be found at “the fence” of Wilmington High School’s Football Field taking in a practice or watching a football game, always encouraging and supporting the players. He was a true “Wildcat Fan”.
Rico was a hard worker, always providing a stable and loving home for his family. Prior to retiring he worked for the Government for many years as a Shop Steward and Tester with the U. S. Army Corps. of Engineers, first in Waltham and then at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford. Rico was a reliable and dedicated employee and a wonderful co-worker.
In his spare time, Rico enjoyed traveling to Florida for the winter with Bernice. They made friends wherever they went but he always looked forward to returning to Wilmington to be with his children and grandchildren. Rico also loved gardening, either vegetables or plants didn’t matter, he loved digging in the dirt. He was a great cook, famous for his “red gravy”. He liked watching the New England Patriots, science fiction television, and the study of metaphysics. He was a deeply spiritual person who truly believed in PMA, “Positive Mental Attitude”, and shared that belief with everyone he met. Rico also had a competitive side, and he and his brother Rudy relished playing, though seldom beating, their wives Bernice and Gracie in a good game of pinochle. Rico was also a talented square dancer and he and Bernice joined “Skirts and Flirts” in Wilmington many years ago. They made dear friends with thirteen other couples, always making it a point to keep in touch even to this day.
Most important to Rico was his family. He loved his wife unconditionally, enjoyed watching his children grow, and, when the grandchildren came along, he became the “Greatest Papa” and they were his pride and joy.
Rico was a man who was honest, kind, and generous, he was very down to earth and humble as well. He had an infectious smile and everyone around him was drawn to him. Rico had a way of making adults as well as children feel good about themselves and was always willing to lend a hand or an ear when needed. Rico was a remarkable man and a proud Veteran; he left a wonderful legacy and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Rico was the beloved husband of 57 years to Bernice M. Russo, devoted father of Debra Russo, Phillip Russo & his wife Meg, and Michael Russo & his wife Sandi all of Wilmington, and Joseph Russo & his wife Lisa of Billerica, loving “Papa” of Jamie DiGeorge & her husband Sean, Joseph, Angela, Nicholas, P.J., Natalie, Jacob, Sydnee, Jordan, Samantha, and Michael Russo. Dear brother of Chris Russo of Sarasota, FL, Catherine Riga of Pepperell, Anna Lisacki of Woburn, and the late Mary Wingert, Anthony, Frederick, Charles, and Rudolph “Rudy” Russo. Rico is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Family and friends will gather in the Nichols Funeral Home, Inc., 187 Middlesex Ave. (Rte. 62), Wilmington, for Visiting Hours on Monday, June 4th from 4-8 p.m. followed by a Prayer Service and Military Honors at 8:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations in Angelo’s name may be made to The Home for Little Wanderers, Development Dept., 271 Huntington Ave., 2nd Floor, Boston, MA 02115.