Egeziaca ‘Jessica’ Rufa

WESTERLO — Egeziaca Rufa, known also as Jessica, was a tough mother who brought four children to the United States from Italy and raised them alone after her husband’s death a year later.

Mrs. Rufa died Monday, March 9, 2020, at the Community Hospice Inn at St. Peter’s Hospital. She was 106.

Mrs. Rufa was born Frosinone, Italy on Nov. 20, 1913 to the late Peter and Dominica Perciballi. She grew up near Rome, where she married Vincent Rufa and laid the foundation of her family.

The family moved to the Bronx in New York City in 1954, at the behest of Mrs. Rufa’s husband. There were four children — the oldest was 17 and the youngest was 10 — and the two parents.

“We survived,” Mrs. Rufa’s son, Peter, told The Enterprise about the family’s early years in the U.S.

“We had a one-bedroom apartment,” Peter Rufa said, “and we all kind of shared it between the six of us.” 

The family had to work to pay back money they borrowed to make the trip, but that endeavor became harder once Mr. Rufa died.

Mrs. Rufa worked as a seamstress and collected welfare checks for the family. The children, as each became old enough, took on jobs to help the family stay afloat.

“She was good,” Peter Rufa said of Mrs. Rufa’s motherhood. “Very strict. Curfew was 8 p.m. and you didn’t break it. She raised us good.”

Eventually, the Rufa family reached a point where the children could keep the money they were earning. 

“We bought a house in the Bronx,” Mrs. Rufa’s son said, “but things started getting bad with the drugs.”

By this time, Peter Rufa had kids of his own who were old enough to be susceptible to illicit influences, so the family relocated to Westerlo in 1988, where things were quieter. 

Mrs. Rufa joined St. John the Baptist Church and became a member of the Rosary Society.

In the countryside, Mrs. Rufa tended to her garden and grew vegetables she would use in her cooking — combining her two favorite hobbies.

“She loved gardening and cooking,” Peter Rufa said. “Almost up until the day she died. She was very active.”

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Egeziaca Rufa is survived by her children, Ida Pironi and Peter Rufa; 15 grandchildren; and several great- and great-great grandchildren.

Her children Maria Rufa, Josephine Cestra, and Benny Rufa died before her, as did her parents, her husband, and her siblings: Peter Cerquiddi and Nena Perciballi.

Calling hours will be held Thursday, March 12, from 4 until 8 p.m. at the A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home at 4898 State Route 81, Greenville. A funeral mass will be held on Friday, March 13, at 11 a.m. at St. John the Baptist Church at 4987 State Route 81 in Greenville. Burial will take place immediately after at the Greenville Cemetery. 

Memorial messages can be posted online at altamontenterprise.com/milestones

— Noah Zweifel

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