Holiday Gift Sends Bachelor Off to ‘Family’ Reunion
When Vince Ricucci went to work last week, the 65-year-old mail room clerk wasn’t expecting a holiday gift from fellow employees. But that’s what he found.
Colleagues at the University of Judaism got together and collected money to send Ricucci, a 22-year university employee, to Oregon to visit his pal Eli Dollinger, 2.
The story of their endearing friendship began in the same mail room. Eli’s mother, Qu Yinan came to the university from her native China to trace her Jewish roots nearly five years ago. To supplement her income, she worked part time in the mail room and became friends with Ricucci. Qu married fellow student Danny Dollinger and continued work on a master’s degree.
Two years later, she gave birth to Eli, but had difficulty in finding reliable child care. Ricucci suggested that she bring the baby to work with her. As Ricucci put it, Eli became the youngest college student on campus, and each day the duo delivered mail around the campus with Eli on Ricucci’s shoulders. Ricucci, a bachelor, said that the Dollingers were like the family he never had.
“I became very attached to this little guy,” said Ricucci. “This is the closest I’ll ever be to being a father.”
But a little more than a year ago, the Dollingers left Los Angeles and moved to Portland. Although Ricucci has stayed in close touch, he has missed his “family” immensely. In the spirit of the holidays, university employees, unbeknown to Ricucci, circulated a flyer with the twosome’s picture and raised funds to purchase toys and an airline ticket to reunite the pair. “I am really excited,” he said. “This has been a big help to me, and I thank God I have the opportunity to see this little guy again.” Ricucci added that if he likes Oregon, he might retire and relocate there someday.
A number of Westside residents were honored by the Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center Foundation for their charitable contributions to the community.
In the philanthropist category, honorees were Amy Irving, George McHose, Margaret Robbins, J. Stanley, Peg Robbins and Richard Robbins. In the volunteer category, Shirley Danley, Marie Browne, Grayce Reidenbach, Hazel Carlson and Jonathan, Warren and Wayne Berke were recognized.
Recipients received a medallion and souvenir program book at a breakfast ceremony on National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Juan Villagomez has been named a member of the Regent Council at Mount St. Mary’s College by Sister Karen Kennelly, president of the college.
Villagomez is medical director of the Westside Medical Group and serves on the staffs of Centinela Hospital Airport Clinic and Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital. He is also an associate clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine and the vice president of the California Hispanic American Medical Assn.
He lives in Los Angeles.