Friends gather to remember Ginny Rico

Frank Rico is looking at pictures of his wife and smiling as he shows a guest around his home.

“I always liked that one,” he said, motioning to a memory in a frame. “Of course, she hated to have her picture taken.”

Mr. Rico’s wife is the late Virginia “Ginny” Rico, who died in June after a lengthy battle with cancer. Ms. Rico was the principal of Cider Mill School from 2002 until her death. Friends from the school, as well as other important people in her life, came together for a memorial service at Rolling Hills Country Club last Wednesday, Oct. 16, to laugh, cry, and share stories.

The overwhelming quote — the one uttered over and over again — was “that was Ginny.”

Or “Ginny was one of a kind.”

“I can’t tell you how touched I am, and how touched the family is, with this kind of turnout,” Mr. Rico said to the guests. “Ginny would have loved it.”

Mr. Rico introduced his daughter, Jennifer, and son, Frank, along with other close family members, including Ms. Rico’s sister, who brought audible gasps with her striking resemblance to Ginny.

“Ginny and I were married for 49 years, and there is nothing that she loved more — maybe her kids — than Cider Mill and the people standing in front of me, and her students,” he said. “She loved them with every fiber of her body. We talked about her retiring. But she couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t do it.

“I spent 49 years trying to make the lady happy, and if that’s what she wanted, then that’s what she got.”

Members of the audience came up to share their memories in the otherwise casual setting, albeit with a somewhat somber tone.

Among those who could not attend was former superintendent David Clune, although he did send a note.

“Ginny was one of those lifelong learners, who rose to the top, through persistence and determination, coupled with a cool head, steady hand, and a warm heart,” his statement read. “Seldom do leaders possess all of these traits, and Ginny was the exception.”

Neighbor and best friend Charlotte Layne brought many tears to the room, pausing several times as her voice cracked.

“How do I speak of my friend of 27 years?” she began. “Well, the first thing I can think of is wonder. Every time I think about the way Ginny approached her illness, I wonder at her unrelenting determination.”

Ms. Layne spoke of how Ms. Rico exhausted every option in the pursuit of a cure for her cancer, going to Little Rock, Ark., to find what she considered “the best doctor.”

“She was determined that she was going to find someone who would be positive about her prospects, and offer her the most cutting-edge treatment possible.

“She endured far more than I think I would ever be able to take in her 14-year battle with multiple myeloma.”

Ms. Layne also said affection was a word she would associate with her friend, although this brought laughs to the room, cutting some of the sadness for a moment as she set up a perfect comment.

“Affection for the way she tried to teach me to be a shopper,” she said, both choking up and laughing at the same time.

She said Macy’s one-day sales were a highlight, dressed in her traditional shopping look of sweatpants, sweat jacket, and a “fanny pack.”

“She could spot a bargain,” she said.

Her speech highlighted many moments of balancing school and home, and writing report card comments late at night.

She relayed a final conversation, saying that Ms. Rico told her, “All I ever wanted to do was help people.”

“There is no doubt that she did that abundantly, and we are all greatly blessed to have been recipients of the help she so freely bestowed on all of us,” Ms. Layne said to applause.

Pat Gould, a former colleague and friend, also relayed her thoughts, as she discussed Ms. Rico’s lengthy career.

Ms. Rico began her career in Wilton in 1978 and became a teacher and technology instructional leader in 1985. She ascended to the role of assistant principal in 1997.

“Ginny had a stash of Peppermint Patties in her lower drawer of her desk,” Ms. Gould added. “If you needed one, there was no problem going in and asking her for one.

“She was always concerned. If there was somebody not feeling well in your family, she would pick up the phone. She always wanted to know how they were doing.”

Sheila Casinelli was an assistant principal under Ms. Rico at Cider Mill. She recalled how her former mentor and friend was always there for her, but how they also worked hard and made their position equally fun.

“She took her time to be Ginny,” Ms. Casinelli said. “She brought a piece of herself to Cider Mill each day and I had the privilege of being a part of an incredible person’s life."