Long-Time Wyckoff Hts. Leader
Emil Rucigay, an attorney from Glendale who helped pave the way for the creation of community boards in northwestern Queens and served as the long-time chairman of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center’s board of trustees, died last Saturday, July 7, at the age of 84.
Born and raised in the Ridgewood area, Rucigay practiced law in the community for 59 years and participated in a vast number of community groups including the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, the Ridgewood-Glendale Lions Club, the Blackstone Club of Ridgewood, the Evergreen Republican Club and the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce. He was also one of the founding members of the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society.
But civic leaders remembered Rucigay for his work in the now-defunct city Office of Neighborhood Government in the late 1960s which led to the formation of Queens Community Boards 1, 2 and 5, serving the neighborhoods of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood.
Considered to be the first chairperson of each of those “planning boards,” as they were called at the time, Rucigay “set the ground work for the rest of us in operating and developing” the all-volunteer advisory bodies across the borough, current Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview.
Rucigay served with Arcuri for many years while chairman of the board of trustees at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Arcuri recalled that the Glendale attorney worked hard to rescue the hospital from bankruptcy and continue to provide “services to the poor and elderly in” Brooklyn and Queens.
“He dedicated his life to his community and his family,” Arcuri added. “He performed untold works of charity throughout his life and many organizations and groups would not exist had it not been for him.”
Fred Haller, who also served with Rucigay on Wyckoff Heights’ board of trustees, added that the long-time chairman’s dedication to the hospital and to the community were “unparalleled.” Rucigay succeeded Haller’s father, former Community Board 5 Chairperson Frederick “Bud” Haller,” in the post on the board of trustees.
“They had their good times and a lot of struggling times, and he helped the hospital get through it,” he said.
Rucigay was also a U.S. Army veteran during the Korean occupation following World War II, attaining the rank of sergeant during his service. Outside of his community work, he was a fan of the fine arts, as he enjoyed painting, classical music, opera and writing.
He is survived by his wife Angelina, children John D. and Nancy Rucigay, Mary Beth and Donald Vetter and Cassandra and Andre Muller and grandchildren Evan, Samantha, Jack, Ethan, Max, Hannah and Erika. He was preceded in death by his son Joseph Rucigay.
A wake for Emil Rucigay was held on Tuesday, July 10, and Wednesday, July 11, at Hillebrand Funeral Home in Rego Park. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered this morning, Thursday, July 12, at 10:15 a.m. at St. Matthias Church in Ridgewood, followed by interment at The Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, under the direction of Schwille Funeral Home in Glendale.