'Pearls from Carol': Milford man creates book from late wife's writings

MILFORD — The world could use some laughter right now, according to Milford resident Albert Ruggiero. He is hoping that his late wife Carol can help provide it.

Ruggiero, 72, has put together more than 300 stories and anecdotes by his late wife Carol, who died in March at age 77 after a battle with progressive lung disease. The couple was married 35 years.

Ruggiero said he hoped his wife’s words would bring some joy to readers. He said he wanted to get her book published to introduce Carol to the world and give readers a glimpse of who she was.

“I can give the world what it desperately now needs — laughter,” he said.

The second week after Carol died, Albert discovered her anecdotes - many of which were handwritten - in a basket in their desk. He gathered all the pages together and compiled them into a book. The 375-page result, called “Pearls from Carol,” has just been published by Balboa Press in Illinois, and is available on Amazon.

“There is autobiography, whimsy, poetry, and potpourri — a little bit of everything,” Ruggiero said.

The short stories are reflections from Carol’s life experiences. Some date back to her childhood in Fairfield in the 1940s. In each one, she reflects, in great detail, on friends, family, pets, and even strangers.

Her writings stem from assignments in a writing group called Writer’s Unlimited at the Milford Senior Center, which she went to twice a week for 20 years. The instructor would give the class a new topic to write about, asking a specific question, and students would write at home. In the next class, they would share their work with one another, and get feedback.

Carol wrote on a variety of topics, from her first date at the age of 12 at a Doris Day movie, to test-driving a car as a young adult, to her reflections on her dreams. She would read aloud everything she wrote to Albert, asking him for feedback.

“She was a keen observer of human nature,” Ruggiero said.

In 2003, one of Carol’s stories was published in Reminisce Magazine. It was a reflection of the time she gave one of her monogrammed handkerchiefs to a classmate who was having a rough first day of kindergarten.

“She still has one of those handkerchiefs,” Ruggiero said.

In another anecdote, called “The canoe,” she recounted what happened one day 20 years ago when she and Albert went canoeing under the Cornwall Bridge, along the Housatonic River.

“We were paddling and all of a sudden, the water level dropped. And we’re thrashing around with this 12-foot canoe,” said Ruggiero. “She notices a guy who is getting ready to go into the water, and she asks what is he doing, and all of a sudden — Bam! We’re in the white water, which is really frightening. She was petrified, she couldn’t swim. We ended up on a big rock. Before we got back to shore, she said, ‘If I’m going to die, I want to have one last cigarette.’”

Carol always wrote about topics for which she was familiar, according to Ruggiero.

He added that Carol would also say, “show, don’t tell.”

“She would say, ‘in your writing, you have to express things so that someone is forming a mental image, a photographic image,’” Ruggiero said.

The early years

The couple met in 1983, at work.

“I worked as a supervisor in Grand Central Market supermarket [in Fairfield] and she was store manager,” Ruggiero said. “I saw her and I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was vivacious, stunning, and incredibly hard working.”

They dated two years and then got married.

“She was very experienced in the world and always protective of me,” he said.

A self-described “bona-fide klutz, Albert said Carol focused on keeping him safe.

“Her whole mission in life was to protect and do for me,” he said.

Carol had a difficult life, according to her Albert. Her two children from a previous marriage both died young.

“She had a lot of scars,” Ruggiero said.

Aside from writing, Carol enjoyed making ceramics.

“The whole house is filed with things she made,” said Ruggiero, a retired history and psychology teacher who is a musician and plays saxophone in a band called The Notables with the Milford Senior Center. He also plays in the Milford and Stratford concert bands.

Ruggiero said they never argued. They spent their evenings doing crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble and watching Jeopardy!.

Albert said Carol would be amazed if she knew her words had been published in book form.

“She is the most unpretentious person you ever met,” he said.