‘If you met him you liked him right away’: Salzillo’s memory lives on through popular game dinner

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The late Richard D. Salzillo – known as Rick, Ricky or Sal – passed away on Feb. 10, 1976 from injuries he sustained during a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer, but his memory has lived on for decades.
Salzillo was a 6-foot-3, 240-pound basketball player, softball third baseman and football defensive end, and people are still bringing up his name. They share stories about the late Johnston native and 1970 La Salle Academy graduate, who worked different part-time jobs as he earned an accounting degree at Bryant College.
“My response is absolutely that was because Ricky was that good of a person,” said Steven Placella, who along with many of the late Salzillo’s friends has been holding a memorial game dinner since 1977 and without interruption for upwards of the 20 years. “His great name has benefited college-bound high school seniors and numerous nonprofits as well as sports facilities in and around Johnston.”
Last year’s Ricky Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner, for example, attracted almost 400 people, which was a record amount, and raised more than $13,000.
“So please, help us continue these good efforts in the name of Rick Salzillo and buy a ticket to the memorial game dinner,” Placella said. “Or better yet, buy a table!”
This year’s installment will begin at noon on Sunday, Jan. 26, inside the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 at 1418 Plainfield Pike on the Cranston-Johnston line.
“I guarantee that the food will be delicious, the camaraderie and friendship will be endearing and lifelong, and the raffle will be spectacular,” he said.
“The raffle is like none-other fundraiser!” exclaimed Vin LaFazia, who co-chairs the Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner with Placella. “Some people purchase tickets just to reserve a seat so they can win one of the countless – and I mean countless – raffle prizes.”
The raffle – which features everything from small stoves to wine racks – is the wonderful work of brothers Frank and Nick Fede. The duo, who were friends of the late Salzillo, own and operate Kingstown Liquors on Post Road in North Kingstown.
“Frank and Nick are highly-respected by their distributors,” LaFazia went on. “It seems like there’s nothing that people won’t do to help ensure the success of the Ricky Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner.”
Greg and David Spirito are also “doing everything possible” to make sure the game dinner is a success.
The Spiritos own and operate Spirito’s Restaurant and Catering, which is based at the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post and will prepare the evening’s meal.
“Greg and David are also on the committee,” Placella went on. “Their game dinners are fantastic.”
Tickets cost only $35 per person and the proceeds, as Placella and LaFazia announced, “led to 12 scholarships for Johnston High seniors last year.” They also noted that funds have gone towards projects such as installation of lights at the Johnston War Memorial Park basketball courts, construction of the Veterans Memorial Pavilion and Salzillo Fitness Courts, as well as the oncology-hematology units as Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence.
Perhaps Al Salzillo, Ricky’s brother, said it best.
“If you met him you liked him right away,” Al said. “He always had something good to say to you. Whenever I saw him, he always lifted things up, and people just don’t get that anymore.”
Anyone who would like to purchase tickets or a table should call Placella at 255-3478, Vin Jackvony at the Johnston Parks and Recreation Department at 272-3460 or the Kelley-Gazzerro VDW Post at 942-9500.

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