Friday was National Arbor Day, but in Middletown it was about much more than planting a tree. The community came together to honor a local woman for her service and commitment.
Lucille Ruggiero volunteered for years at the Wesley School in Middletown, creating deep roots and watching her young students blossom for years.
"I think about her every day. She made a big impact on my life. She inspired me to think of other always,” said Ann Anderson, a teacher at the school.
Before she passed last December, Ruggiero up until the age of 94 helped Anderson's kindergarten class. Ruggiero volunteered for decades for the Nutmeg Big Brother Big Sister foster grandparent program
"She mentored children in this school for over 20 years, she loved coming here. It gave form and meaning to her later years in life,” said Andy Fleischmann, president and COO of Nutmeg Big Brother Big Sisters. “Even when she was under the weather she'd motivate herself to get out here because she so loved working with these adorable kids.”
Fleischmann, along with Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, were on hand for today's ceremony, where they planted a tree in Ruggiero’s honor. The mayor also proclaimed Monday April 29 Lucille Ruggiero day in Middletown.
It was emotional for Ruggiero's family, realizing all their grandmother had done for the Middletown community.
"To see the mayor the president of big sisters and 100 kids she helped guide it was overwhelming,” said her grandson Chris Cirullo.
Ruggiero's legacy lives on in the hearts and minds she touched and the tree that will grow into something special, like the countless kids she helped
"Every time I see that tree I am going to think of what a wonderful person she was and the impact she made on the lives of other people,” Anderson said.
“My grandmother always loved dogwood flowers to memorialize her with a tree on arbor day right next to the classrooms that she taught....yeah I'll be making special trips here to see this tree,” Cirullo said.
The Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters foster grandparent program impacts about 350 kids from Greater Hartford to eastern Connecticut.