Her Life

Early Life

Ruth Dalia Negroni "Cuchy" was born the second daughter of Juan Negroni and Altagracia "Altita" Ruiz in Ensenada, the Guanica county of Puerto Rico in 1936. Along with her sisters, Nydia, Emma and Teresa, Ruth spent her early days on her maternal grandparents farm. Around age 7, Ruth and her sisters came to New York City with their father, Juan, to an apartment in Hell's Kitchen (West side of Manhattan, 56th Street). Meanwhile, Ruth's mom had been employed as a Nanny to a wealthy Chicago Department Store family, earning and saving to reunite with her daughters. Ruth's parents were divorced and her father had remarried someone his daughters did not get along with too well. Ruth often told of the day her Mom finally came to NYC to gather "her girls" and how elated they were to see her. The Negroni Ruiz girls moved to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. A loving support network of aunts was developing and Ruth was surrounded by love, humor and grit.

Adolescence/Young Adult

Ruth was known to many as "Cuchy" (KOO-chee). It was a nickname formed by her sister, Emma, mispronouncing "Ruthie" and it stuck. Ruth often told us stories about growing up in Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen. She had her sisters and also many aunts she adored. Our grandmother, Altagracia Ruiz, had numerous sisters that were varied in age and stage of life and some were young enough to even visit the ballroom dances Ruth and her sisters used to go to. Ruth had to learn English at school and often said she learned quickly because she had no other choice. Although Ruth left school to join her mother and aunts in a candy box factory, she later got her GED (and was very proud of it).  She had numerous suitors in these days and was even engaged at one point. However, Ruth always sought her mother's approval and advice and ultimately stayed single into her twenties. One light in her life was the birth of Ruth's nephew, Tommy. Ruth was a caregiver for him in his early years and cherished that time she had with him. 

Love and Marriage

During her factory work, Ruth's friends encouraged her to apply to be a switchboard operator at AT &T on Canal Street in NY. She got the job and was highly favored at work because she was bilingual. This also meant that Ruth was working the switchboard in which calls from Europe would be "put through" to locations in Central and South America. A widower named Giuseppe was also working for the phone company, Italcable. Operators used to talk to each other to get calls patched through and over time, Giuseppe ("Peppino"), in his 40's and Ruth Dalia, in her 20's,  struck up a friendship. She got to know that he lost his wife to cancer and was living in Rome, Italy, with his parents and  young son, Alberto. They wrote MANY letters to each other and over time, began to fall in love. Peppino asked if he could come to New York and take Ruth to the World's Fair Exhibit in Queens circa 1964. When he came to visit, Ruth's mother thought he was "too old" for her daughter but Peppino persevered through respect and humor. He proposed to Ruth Dalia and they were married September 30th, 1965. Their first child together, Grace, was born the following October, 1966. Adrianne, their second daughter, was born two years later in August, of 1968. Adolescent Alberto was their big brother and they lived together in an apartment at 103 Vermilyea Avenue. On the main floor of that building, lived Ruth's mother, Altita, and on the 2nd floor, Ruth's sister, Emma Alfieri. Inwood Heights was their beloved community. Peppino formally became a citizen and changed his name, officially, to Joseph Attanasio. Ruth was a mother at home but active in the community and school events for her children. Cuchy and Peppino's marriage of 19 years was ended abruptly by his death in 1985, at age 65. Ruth continued to live in the same apartment and thrive in the Inwood community despite this loss.

Work and Community

Ruth left AT&T when her children were small to be a mother at home. She was an active voice for rent control and led the apartment building during the rent strikes of the 1970's. Ruth also volunteered for school events and needs. She was often called upon to translate information into Spanish or interpret for a Spanish family and she did so with pride. Ruth was well known on her block as a champion for manners, respect and helping. She often visited people who were sick or needed support. As her daughters got older and could manage more independence, Ruth started working as a pharmacy clerk at Isham Pharmacy. In that role, Ruth exuded confidence and kindness. She helped elderly people, in particular, with understanding their prescriptions and side effects. Eventually, Isham Pharmacy changed owners and Ruth decided to move a few blocks south on Broadway to Rite Aid Pharmacy. In her Pharmacy Clerk role there, Ruth could again help people in the store, marvel at babies, and monitor the sick. She had a big personality and always advocated for those who needed support. Ruth retired in 2006 so she could more actively engage with her grandchildren and community.

Mother in law

Ruth held some very traditional views about the role of wife in a woman's life. This worked out pretty well for two men Ruth absolutely adored. Her daughter, Grace, met her husband, Scott Shickler, at Fordham University in 1987. Grace and Scott married in 1991 at the Fordham University Church, Bronx, NY. While Ruth did miss her own spouse, Peppino, who had passed away in 1985, she had a wonderful time dancing at the wedding and meeting new family members from the Shickler side. Ruth's daughter, Adrianne, met her husband, Jeff Hamilton, at Georgetown University in 1986. They married at Good Shepherd Church in Inwood in 1993. Again, Ruth enjoyed the wedding with family and new Hamilton family members. Most notably, Ruth loved to dance (especially merengue) with her son in laws . She loved to cook their favorite foods such as sausage and meatballs and would encourage them to come over so they could get a "real meal". Ruth was known to chide her daughters for not making their husbands a sandwich every time they went to the kitchen or for not asking them if they were thirsty every five minutes. It was a great joy for her to dote on her sons in law and they both loved and cared for her in many ways. She was an easy laugh for their jokes and they both encouraged her storytelling. Scott and Jeff will miss "Mom" very much! 

Ruth as a Grandmother and Retiree

It was challenging for Ruth to finally retire from full time work. Upon the death of her own mother, Altita, Ruth finally relented. She enjoyed babysitting for her grandchildren whenever that was possible. In 1996, Ruth's first grandson, Jaxson, was born and lived in Riverdale. Ruth would travel by bus to Grace and Scott's apartment and take Jaxson on long walks or to play in the playground. Ruth often encouraged her grandchildren to be adventurous physically: to walk, run, climb and play with abandon. Grandson Joseph was born in 1996 also, and Ruth would travel to Virginia to play with him at Adrianne and Jeff's house. She also encouraged them to come to New York City frequently to visit! Granddaughter, Dalia (named for Ruth Dalia) was born in July, 1999 and Ruth rushed to Virginia to help Adrianne in the early days of post partum. It was her inclination to help out at such a vulnerable time that may have actually extended her life! While Ruth was in Virginia a MAJOR fire took place in the apartment building. Half the roof and front rooms were burned away! The damage was extensive. Ruth extended her stay briefly in Virginia but ultimately returned to NY where she lived in the furnished apartment of a friend, Angela. Little by little, the apartment was restored to habitable and Ruth returned to a 5th floor walkup she called home! In 2001, Ruth's grandson, Hayden, was born in Georgia. Ruth traveled down south to meet him and Hayden also made trips to New York to see Gramma too. In 2004, Ruth's youngest grandchild was born, Allyson. Ally got to visit with Gramma in New York and Virginia. Most recently, Ally earned her community service hours at The Kensington where Ruth was residing in Virginia. Ally got to know the other residents at this facility and see her grandmother often. Ruth was a devoted Gramma to these five children but she also had two bonus grandchildren through her step-son, Alberto. Shalmai was born in 1979 and Cedar was born in 1988. Ruth did not get to interact with them frequently but cherished photos and stories about them. Cedar occasionally stayed with Ruth in NYC as a young adult. Being a grandmother was a sincere joy in Ruth's life!

Ruth's Final Years

Ruth came to understand that Alzheimer's Disease was a part of the Ruiz family legacy. Her mother, Altita, succumbed to this condition in 2006 and later, Ruth's sister, Nydia Williams also died in the throes of Alzheimer's, circa 2015. Ruth often visited her sister as she deteriorated and ultimately saw how intermittent the memory can be in this condition. 
Around 2017, Grace and Adrianne noticed that Ruth's fierce independence was compromised by her "forgetting" to eat and keep up with her mail. Loving neighbors expressed their concerns and Ruth's daughters began the pursuit of a better living situation for Ruth. They promised to keep paying rent on her NYC apartment in case she did not enjoy new surroundings, and moved her to a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia, called The Kensington. Adrianne lives only 15 minutes away. 
At The Kensington, Ruth was the "life of the party". She was beloved by the many attendants there, especially the Hispanic men and women who could talk and sing with her in Spanish. Adrianne's close friends, Steve and Mavra Falcon, often visited with Ruth and enjoyed times with raucous laughter and dancing and singing. Additionally, Ruth's granddaughter, Ally, completed her high school community service hours at The Kensington! Adrianne worked only a short walk down the street from The Kensington and she and all the Hamiltons could visit often. 
The Kensington staff was remarkable. There was daily programming for Mom to interact with peers, watch movies and TV, create artwork, attend singalongs, get physical exercise and go on outings. They managed all her physical needs and emotionally bonded with Ruth. She had a lovely, comfortable room with decorated beloved houseplants and mementos of her life. She had regular visitors, excellent nutrition and a regular schedule with engaging activities. This experience was something Ruth had saved for all her life, and we were so grateful to have found such a lovely environment for her sunset years. 
In the last few weeks, Ruth's Alzheimer's had robbed Ruth of her mobility. She could no longer balance on a walker, so she was wheelchair bound. She could no longer feed herself although she still enjoyed the taste of food and was taking in nutrition several times a day. Her affect was still cheery and the staff there facilitated facetime visits with Grace in Georgia. Once the Covid pandemic restrictions went into place, Adrianne's family also had to use video chat to communicate. 
The Kensington staff initiated hospice care as Ruth began demonstrating greater periods of lethargy and slowed breathing. Aware she may be Covid positive and not recover, Grace, Scott, Adrianne and Jeff all had the opportunity to talk to Mom by phone. While she could not communicate verbally, the staff there indicated Ruth was smiling and turning her head toward the phone. She died peacefully around Noon on April 6th. She was 83 years old.