Richard Citrano believed in family, friends, God and the American dream, and for 83 years he worked for all of them. Citrano died on Thursday, March 15, at home in Verona: The town he called home for nearly his entire life, a town he help build, house sale by house sale, civic project by civic project and friend by friend.
Citrano came to Verona in 1931 at age 3 from East Orange, a time when many of the houses he would later sell weren’t even built. There was no Woodland Avenue or Brentwood Drive then, no Gerdes or Fairway, nothing but fields to the north of F.N. Brown school. He was part of the first classes to go to Laning Avenue School. When he graduated from Verona High School, in 1946, it was a small building at the center of town. There was no Verona Pool, a place where he would come to swim a mile a day from the first day it opened. His only regret about the pool was that he had not lobbied hard enough, when it was being approved, for an enclosed, year-round pool complex.
After several jobs in plumbing sales, Citrano joined Bernard N. Janett Realty in Verona in 1965 and to build the Verona real estate career that he would carry on for four decades, believing deeply that home ownership was the American dream. He started Citrano & Associates Realtors in 1976, and probably sold more homes in Verona than any real estate agent ever had—or will. He won the Million Dollar Sales Award repeatedly in years when the average home price in Verona was less than $30,000: from 1977 to 1981, and again from 1985 through 1991.
He entertained and he was entertaining, through words and dancing. He used his booming voice to great effect as the song leader at Our Lady of the Lake Church for many years. He got a bit part in The Godfather.
Before his retirement in 2004, Citrano was active in many school, church and civic activities. He founded the Verona Jaycees, and served as president of the West Essex Board of Realtors. He was also twice president of the Rotary Club of Verona. He also belonged to UNICO National, the Salvation Army, Verona Service League, Verona Scholarship Association and the Verona Senior Citizens Council.
Citrano is the husband of Catherine V. Citrano, his wife of 57 years, who survives him. He is also survived by his daughters Virginia Citrano; Christina Citrano Sandy and her husband Warren; Sharon Citrano Licitra and her husband Emanuele; and Rosemary Citrano Gabbe and her husband Drew. He is the grandfather to Patrick and Vanya Citrano, Alex Sandy, Nicholas and Giulia Licitra, and Jenna and Alena Gabbe. He was Uncle Richie and Mr. C to many, many more. He was predeceased by his brothers Leonard and Vincent Citrano, and his sisters Virginia Citrano Antonanzas and Evelyn Citrano Manna.
A funeral mass will be offered in Our Lady of the Lake Church, Verona, on Monday, March 19 at 10 a.m. Visiting in the Prout Funeral Home, 370 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona on Sunday, March 18, from 4 to 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Verona Rescue Squad, 12 Church Street, Verona NJ 07044.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of his favorites.
The key to a successful life
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
I’m very sorry to hear of your loss.
Your father was indeed the first Veronian we met, when he showed us our house fourteen years ago. He was a very kind and warm.
I was touched by the above poem, as it was a favorite of my late father as well.
My condolences to you and your family.
The township of Verona, Essex County and the entire State of New Jersey have truly lost a gentleman and an icon not to mention a wonderful husband, father and a great friend to everyone who ever knew the man. May God Bless Richard and his wonderful,caring and thoughtful family!
My heart goes out to you and your famiy during this difficult time.
With deepest sympathy,
So sorry for your loss Virginia…. Our prayers to your family at this difficult time. Beautiful tribute..
Gina, I am so very sorry to hear about your Dad. I remember him so well as a Verona icon and ever present smiling face. Much love and condolences to you and your wonderful family.
Allison Ulrey Hazell
Mrs. C and Family,
Sorry to hear Richard has left us. You and your family have been good to our family over the years and when I was working at Citrano Realtors. Our prayers go out to you and the family.
Richard, Laurie and the Boys.
Dear Citrano family, I am so sorry to hear about Mr C’s passing. He was a great man that meant a great deal to my family for many years. I can imagine that he and Mom are now sitting together having a cup of coffee and catching up on everything. Much love to all of you. Andrea and John Weigel
Sorry for your loss Virginia to you and your family . Prayers to you all during this time .
Catherine–Mary and I are so sorry and shocked to hear about your loss. I recall the days in 1967 when we moved to Verona. We met Richard and you in the inter-faith “living Room Dialog” program and have since always regarder you both with high esteem and affection. Richard will be deeply missed.
I will never forget seeing your Dad driving in his red sports car. I knew he was a fun guy! I will keep you and your family in my prayers.
So sorry for your loss Virginia. Yes, a really beautiful tribute.
Sorry to hear of the loss of your father, Virginia. He accomplished so much, always maintaining a great sense of humor. Always enjoyed his friendship and jokes.
Virginia and Family,
My condolences on your lost. Your father was A staple in Verona and will be missed deeply. I too remember always seeing him in his red mustang driving around Verona with he beloved straw hats and he would always wave to me when he saw my through town.
God bless you guys!!
So sad, So sorry for your loss
We bought our house through Citrano Realty in 1989. We remember when he showed up at our house about a week after we moved in, complete with his straw hat and an American flag. He was a wonderful man. Our hearts are with you Virginia, your mother, and your entire family.
Jane and Steve
A truly great guy. It wouldn’t be out of place to call him Mr. Verona. He is what was great about growing up in Verona. A class act and a great family man. My sincerest condolences.
Dear Family, your Dad always made me laugh. I used to look for him at OLL each Sunday in the same seat. I hope he and my Dad are sharing a few good laughs. Verona was fortunate to have Mr. Citrano, thinking of you all.
Virginia & family – so sorry for your tremendous loss – I will fondly remember your Dad playing Santa at the Verona Service League Nursery School when my daughter attended it. He will be greatly missed.
Debbie & John
We are so sorry about your father. This is a beautiful tribute and he seemed like a wonderful man. We are sending our prayers to you and your family. God Bless him
Doreen & Joey Arminio
What a beautiful tribute to your father. I am truly sorry for your family’s loss. It is evident what an amazing husband, father, and grandfather he was. I will keep your family in my prayers. Sending you all much love…
That is a lovely tribute to your father, Virginia. I was lucky enough to see and talk to him often when I first moved to town in 2005. He would zip up to your house in the red convertible and aforementioned straw hats and we would have a lively conversation– no shortage of words between the two of us! My heart and prayers go out to you and all of the family.
To the Citrano Ladies,
Heartfelt prayers to you all during this time of bereavement. Mr. C was an Angel and the Brown family always had much love and respect for him. During the Lanning Ave. school days, when you all took my sister Kim and I into your home before school and at lunch, we were treated with kindness and love. It was there that I saw a man outside of my own dad teaching his family the importance of God first, family and generousity to others. These lessons have remained with me 35 plus years later. His culinary skills, sense of humor and community as well as his joy for living will be missed. While Verona loses a Great Man, heaven has just received one! Much Love, Kenny Brown
We were very sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. He was a man of many accomplishments and a true “Verona Institution” in the best sense of the term. Our condolences to you and your family.
Val and Kevin Ryan
To the Citrano family, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I remember Mr. Citrano playing Santa Claus at my church in the 70’s. He was a nice man. Your family is in my prayers.
Please accept my condolences. While I am perhaps too new to town to have known your father, I can see where the Verona spirit exhibited by his children in the community and grandchildren in the schools comes from.
Virgina, we’re very sorry to hear about your Dad. He was a wonderful, wonderful man and will be missed by many — it’s so hard to think of Verona without Richie Citrano in it! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
To the entire Citrano family,
I am so sorry to hear of Richie’s passing. What a wonderful man! To know Richie was to love him. He was a kind, caring man who loved his family, his church and his beloved Verona. Who can forget seeing him in his crazy hats, bowler in the winter and straw skimmers and pith helmut in the summer. Donna and I will never forget the heartfelt engagement party he and Catherine threw for us 33 years ago. Richard had a wonderful zest for life be it playing Santa, rooting for VHS at a football game, volunteering with the Rotary club, singing in church or giving updates on what “the girls” are doing. He was so proud of his daughters.
Recently the VCG Times referred to a fellow Verona resident as “Mr. Verona”. With all due respect to the recipient of this honor, and the author of the article, you missed the real Mr. Verona. If there ever was anyone who epitomized all that Verona is and who deserves the Mr. Verona monicker it is Richie Citrano.
Rest in peace, Richie.
The D’Alessio family
To the Citrano family – my deepest sympathy to you all. A legend he was, for sure and his legacy of love of family and commitment to Verona is just beautiful. You are all in my prayers. Tricia
We are very sorry for your great loss. We feel very sad for you and all your family; but we feel especially sad for your mother. Please give her a big hug from us!
Con grande affetto,
Cinzia and George
Catherine and Family,
Richard was my greatest supporter when I was a young teacher at Laning Avenue School. Virginia, you will remember that you were in my first class of thirty-two sixth graders. Virginia, your dad was a friend for all the years I worked in Verona. A man with a heart. We are sorry for your loss.
To the Citrano Family – We are so sorry for your loss. We hope you find a touch of comfort knowing that we are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.
Aunt Cathy, Gina, Christina, Sharon and Rosie,
Uncle Richie was such an important person in the lives of all of our family. We all loved him more than you can imagine. He was there for my mom and dad when I was born. I remember when he worked at Bond’s Ice Cream…how cool was that!!—he was such a hero to me!! He was our own personal Santa when we were little. He and Aunt Cath were stars in their wedding…Vince and I will always remember that day! Many years later when my Dad turned 80, Uncle Richie surprised him in the limo going to the surprise party…Dad started crying and then we all did!!! His brother Richie was the best gift of all. Family reunions were extra special because Uncle Richie was there… I’ll never forget dancing to YMCA at Julie’s wedding in Napa!! We really lucked out when Christina moved to California because we got to see more of Aunt Cath and Uncle Richie than we had in a long time. We were all blessed that he was there before my dad passed. We will always remember his jokes, his stories, his kindness and his big heart. We are so lucky that he was in our family, that he picked such a wonderful wife, and that he had four fabulous daughters (who now have such wonderful families as well). We will always remember Uncle Richie with love and smiles.
Dear Citrano family,
Our deepest heartful sympathy for your loss. Trust in the Lord’s promise that you will be comforted and you will experience His peace and love.
bob and pat roma
Dear Citrano Family,
What a beautiful tribute for a truly great guy. I’m sorry for you loss.
The Mulligan Family
Dear Virginia and Citrano family –
I am so sorry to hear that Mr. Citrano passed away. He is one of the people who will always be linked to Verona in my memory – he was such a part of it. It was a great town to grow up in, because of people like him. My thoughts are with you and your family.
We were very sad to hear of your loss. It is so hard to lose a parent. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
With heartfelt sympathy,
Tony and Mary-Ann Micale and family
We were truly sorry to hear about your father. We knew that we picked the right town to live in when we first met Mr. C, one of the first people that we encountered in Verona. He always asked after the boys, and he couldn’t have been prouder of his own family. Our deepest condolences to you and your family.
Lauren and Martin Ziolkowski
We were saddened to hear of your dad’s passing. In our opinion he was “Mr. Verona,”–successful realtor, community volunteer, friend to many and legendary raconteur. He will live long in the memory of those who knew him. The photo of your dad dancing was the perfect choice–it captures his zest for life.
Dave & Dianne Oster
I was driving home from work Monday evening, thinking about the Citrano family when suddenly it dawned on me…who else but a Citrano could run a website/news service called MyVeronaNJ.com? The name Citrano is pretty much synonymous with Verona.
If you’re a regular reader of this site, or a resident of Verona, then you know that a legend, Richard Citrano, passed away last Thursday. From what I could see the town of Verona (and then some) came out to pay their respects to him and his family yesterday and today. It was a diverse group who came to say goodbye and share their memories: people of all ages, races, religions…well you get the idea. ALL of who had been touched in some way by Richard Citrano and his family.
Most of the Citrano family still lives in the town of Verona and they represent what makes Verona such a great place to live. People who care about each other and about the town they live in.
And so as I drove home on this warm afternoon, I thought about how lucky I am to live in a town like Verona. I may not know everybody in town like Richard Citrano did (or at least it seemed that way! And even if you didn’t know him, he’d still tip his hat or wave when he drove by you in his shiny red convertible.) but I can be more like him (and by extension his family).
So I’m resolving to be more “Citrano-like” in my daily living. To smile at the staff at Terry’s Drug Store. To say hello to people I don’t know while I’m standing on line at Bagelwich. To give generously to more of the wonderful service organizations that we have in town (like the Rescue Squad or the Verona Music Association). To simply say thank you to a crossing guard. Because that’s the Citrano way – and that’s the Verona way.
My Uncle Ritchie was a man that loved God, People and most of all his family. When you saw him he’d hug you give you a big kiss and tell you how much he loved you. Having left Verona when I was only 3 I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked to. Whenever he came out to California it was a truly fun and exciting event. His love and humor was infectious.
Some of my best memories are when he and Aunt Cath stayed with me in LA when I was getting married. It was such a blessing and a gift to share that special time with them. I stayed with them for three weeks in 1999 and we had a blast…who knew you could BBQ pizza?!
My sister already mentioned so many of the other great times we had. My Uncle Ritchie was a true blessing and he enriched my life. I am proud to have known him and to be a part of this special family called…Citrano.
My love and sympathy goes out to my Aunt Cath and her awesome supportive family that she and Ritch created.
I will always miss him. Hope he and my Dad are having some good laughs right now…
Virginia, this is truly beautiful. Now I feel like I got to know your dad better. What a blessed life. His legacy inspires.
My sincerest condolences to the entire Citrano family. Richard was “Mr. Verona” and indeed a familiar presence in Verona. While in my early 20’s I lived in an apartment on Bloomfield Avenue near the realty office. I also worked for a firm in Verona which handled real estate closings so I saw Richard frequently. It was always a pleasure to chat with him when our paths would cross in town – he had such a great sense of humor and always shared a kind word. He was truly a wonderful person and I know his presence in your lives will be sorely missed. I hope you can find comfort during your loss in your memories and knowing how many lives he touched.
To the family of Richard Citrano:
He was one of kind. In my 30 years living in Verona, our paths crossed many times. At our church, we prayed together, served together in ministries and worked at functions. No matter when we saw each other, either at the pool, civic or social functions or just around town, he made my heart smile. Rest In Peace, sweet Richie.