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Anthony J. Ricci
December 11, 1911 – November 24, 1980
Recognized as a Legend of Port Norris on November 3, 2018
Dad was born in beautiful down town Berrytown on December 14, 1911. If he were alive he would be 107 years old next month. He and his brother Sam and their 6 sisters lived in a very small 2 or three bedroom two story house, which is still standing. It was moved from the original location in a field near the meadow to a spot just off Main Road at the entrance to Berrytown Road. I have never been inside the house, but I can not imagine 8 kids and their parents living there. They were farmers and there was plenty of help for plowing behind horses and harvesting the crops.
When Dad and Mom got married they lived in another small two story house on a farm on Dragston Road. Not far from Berrytown. When I was 2 or 3 years old Dad re-built the big house next door which was more comfortable for the six members of our family.
He loved hunting, fishing and crabbing and he must have loved farming too. When I was about eight, I remember that he took me into a field of string beans that stood up to my chest. He said "look at this" and he laid over some plants and showed me hands full of string beans. I think he wanted to see my reaction to determine if I was farmer material. It wasn't going to be my career! On the farm we raised strawberries ,beans, lettuce, onions, cauliflower and broccoli. I plant a garden every year, but I have not been able to duplicate that bountiful crop of string beans, or any other vegetable that Dad raised on the farm.
When my brothers and I were in elementary school worked on the farm after school and on week ends. It was hard work, even with the tractors that replaced the horses. We did not complain because the work we did was harder when Dad was our age. Dad served on the Transportation Committee for Downe Township. On snowy days he would check the icy conditions of Dragston Road and report to the committee. I didn't have too much influence in getting school cancelled and conditions would have to be serious to stop the busses from running.
Then, sometime in the mid-1950's a lot of steel structures that I didn't recognize began accumulating in the back 40 acres. I couldn't imagine how that steel could be used on the farm! I later learned that in the early 1940's the brothers had a 60 foot deep irrigation well drilled in the field behind our house. The well not only produced abundant water, it produced a core sample of high quality sand and gravel. The pieces of the puzzle began to fit. The steel was for a sand plant. Sand mining was a major industry in this area and the brothers were serious about mining the farm. Also, they knew that the 200 acre farm would not support four more families of my two brothers , my cousin and myself. And, in 1958 Ricci Bros. Sand Co. was born. The dredge and the plant were producing concrete sand and stone. The farm was still operating with the help of Uncle Joe Dagastine while the sand plant was being fine tuned. Construction did not stop! A sand dryer and sand screening machinery were delivered to the plant. Then in 1980, steam began rolling out of the sand dryer stack and Ricci Bros Sand Co. was an Industrial sand producer. Unfortunately, the founders of the new venture had both died before the start-up of the dryer.
I once asked Dad if he regretted mining those farm fields and his immediate answer was "no." The transition from farming to mining the farm was a courageous move by the brothers who had a vision of a better life for their children. I wonder though, that if they could have foreseen today's Environmental regulations and mining restrictions, that the sand and stone would have been shoveled back into that irrigation well and forgotten.
Presented by Samuel Ricci
Pat Smith presents the award to brothers John and Sam Ricci
John and Sam Ricci