Thursday, March 1, 2007

Vincenzo Riccardi and the Walking Stick


The last time Adriana Molina spoke to Vincenzo Riccardi, she said, he tried to smack her on the hand with his walking stick.

It was early December 2005, a month before Southampton police believe the fiercely independent Italian immigrant died, blind and alone at 70, inside his secluded Hamptons Bay home....

Until that final, unpleasant exchange, for three years Molina had visited Riccardi's house almost daily to attend to his needs. She prepared his needles with insulin for his diabetes, read him his mail, kept a log book for his bills, and brought him friendship. But relationships were never that easy with Riccardi.

"He would become so irritable that I had to run away," Molina, 41, of East Quogue, said with tears in her eyes. "I had a lot of affection for this man. It wasn't the first time that he tried to hit me, and I didn't see it as aggression, but as the way he was."...

In November 2005, Riccardi celebrated his last Thanksgiving at Molina's house. They spoke about his upbringing in Italy, his start in America in Astoria, Queens, his relationship with his estranged son, who lives in Wantagh.

Riccardi was happy that day, Molina said. He gave Molina's daughter, Kelly, then 19, and son Mateo, then 13, crisp $5 bills. Riccardi knew they were fives because, due to his blindness, he folded each bill in a distinct manner, Molina recalled.

Soon after, Molina said, Riccardi became enraged when she once phoned the police because she was concerned for his safety. Molina was so hurt by his behavior that she said she would leave. He responded by saying that he would pay a nurse for the services she provided.

"It was a very, very difficult situation," she said....

People around Southampton Town who knew Riccardi say they wish they had done more. Especially Adriana Molina.

She certainly remembers the times when an angry Riccardi would swing his walking stick her way. He always missed.

But her more vivid memories are of him smiling, as both of them sat listening to the song "Vivire" by the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who was born with poor vision and later became blind.


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