Camille Ricciardo, a born-again Christian and influential figure at the Southampton Full Gospel Church in Southampton, died last week in East Patchogue when her car was broadsided by a driver who police said was impaired by drugs.
Ms. Ricciardo, 71, who was remembered by family and friends this week as a devout and prayerful woman, was driving her 2004 Chevrolet Classic on Gazzola Drive at about 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, when a 2006 Chevrolet commercial pickup truck traveling south on Sills Road plowed into her vehicle, Suffolk County Police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician’s assistant from the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office.
She was a longtime Sag Harbor resident who also lived for a few years in Westhampton Beach before moving to East Patchogue.
“She was an angel until she died,” said her son-in-law, John Speth, adding that he was told at the scene that she had a green light, but had stopped to let a woman and child in another vehicle pull out ahead of her. “They said that if she didn’t stop, the lady and the child would have been killed.” The child had even waved thanks.
The driver of the truck, Justin Klein, 23, of Medford, an employee of 84 Lumber, was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, police said. He was arrested and charged with driving while his ability was impaired by drugs and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, both misdemeanors. Mr. Klein, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was found to be in possession of heroin and told a police officer that he consumed Xanax a couple of hours before the crash. He told investigators he had a prescription for the Xanax.
“They said he was doing almost 80 miles an hour and never hit the brakes,” Mr. Speth said. “He hit her broadside on her driver’s side.”
Mr. Klein was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $75,000 cash bail, following an April 18 arraignment in 1st District Court in Central Islip, said Suffolk County district attorney’s office spokesman Bob Clifford. He was due back in court on April 24.
Ms. Ricciardo, meanwhile, was just minutes from her home at the time of the crash, said James Boyd, a deacon at the Full Gospel Church, where, he said, she was a faithful member for about 38 years.
“You can’t imagine how much this one woman helped the church,” he said, noting how she helped out with the church’s mission school, Mission Reach Out Haiti, in that impoverished Caribbean nation in the 1980s, teaching how to cook and clean. “She’s a helper from A to Z,” he said.
One initiative that she helped spearhead was the church’s monthly visits to the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton Village. “Really, without her, it would have struggled at times,” he said. “She was always there to motivate. I’ll never forget. That’s really the Christian way.”
An organ player at the church, she would pack up a portable organ and bring it to the nursing home to play Christian songs for the residents. “She just loved to save souls and to preach the Gospel,” he said.
The Reverend Donald Havrilla described her as a faithful, pleasant and extremely likable person. “One of her strongest points was prayer,” he said, noting that she was a “prayer partner” with his wife, Eileen. “But even on her own, Camille was a big prayer warrior for the sick, the lost, the troubled,” he said.
Ms. Ricciardo moved to Sag Harbor in 1967 or 1968, according to Mr. Speth. In the mid-1970s, unhappy living in the “lonely” village with two young children, she had a vision from God that sparked her religious beliefs, Rev. Havrilla said.
“She was a born-again Christian. She was into God. Her whole life was wrapped up with the church,” he said, adding, “She had time for her family, too.
“She touched so many people in Southampton, hundreds of people,” he continued. “If you needed $2, she’d give you $2 out of her pocket.”
She and her husband, Frank, owned and lived in the building where Canio’s Books on Main Street is now, up to 1997 or 1998, he said. When her husband died in 1992, she moved to live with Mr. Speth and his wife, her daughter, Maria, in Westhampton Beach and helped raise their son, John Frank, now 17.
She moved to East Patchogue in 2006 or 2007 to care for her mother, Geraldine Roddini, who developed Alzheimer’s disease. Ms. Roddini died just this past December, Mr. Speth said.
Ms. Ricciardo was a Patchogue High School graduate and a housewife. She is survived by a sister, Adrienne Roddini of Patchogue; a brother, Andrew Roddini and his wife Maryann of Florida; a brother, Neil Roddini and his wife Carol of Springfield, Virginia; a daughter, Maria Speth and her husband John of Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, and their son, John Frank; and a son, Vincent Ricciardo and his wife Christine, and their daughters, Madison Paige, 5, and Sydney, 20 months, of Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
“It’s so horrible, how quick she was taken,” Mr. Speth said. “It rips your heart out of your chest.”
Visitation was held on Tuesday at the Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue and Wednesday morning at the Southampton Full Gospel Church. A funeral service was to be held at the Southampton church on Wednesday afternoon. Interment was to follow at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.