November 14, 1921 - April 22, 2021
Clovis, California - Frances Grande Ricchiuti, surrounded by family and treasured friends went to be with the Lord on April 22, 2021. Frances' incredible life story began nearly a century ago on November 14, 1921, in Fresno California, when Girolamo and Marianna Grande welcomed their third child into the world shortly after moving from their homeland of Bisceglie, Italy.
Though Frances' mother and father hoped to attain the American Dream, plans and circumstances changed and the decision was made to return to Italy when she was just two years old. Young Frances quickly adapted to her family's native culture. Frances attended elementary school in Bisceglie until she was ten years old. At that point, her formal education came to an end, but her real life skills training had just begun. Frances' mother thought it best to send her daughter to a seamstress to learn how to sew and embroider, which in time, proved to be most beneficial.
Several years later, when Frances was just 13 years old, she experienced the sudden loss of her mother. This sad and tragic turn of events left Frances and her two older siblings with the responsibility of caring for their younger brothers and sister, in addition to managing household duties.
In the midst of coping with the loss of her mother and challenge of raising her siblings, Frances contracted typhoid fever. With the courage and strength that epitomized Frances' character, she survived after a year-long struggle.
With restored health and renewed energy, Frances wisely used her acquired sewing skills to take on jobs to help with family financial obligations. Some years later, when Frances was 17 years old, her father, still holding onto the aspiration of a better life for his children, asked her if she would move back to Fresno, California with family since she still maintained her American citizenship. Bravely, in 1939, and with a show of respect for her father's wishes, Frances boarded the last ship to leave Europe before World War II began.
Essentially, this teenage girl, with only 20 dollars in her pocket, left her family, her home, and her country to embark on a life-changing adventure. Frances did not speak or understand the English language which made this endeavor all the more difficult and trying.
For the next three years, Frances lived with her aunts and uncles as she traveled throughout California's Central Valley--from Bakersfield to Sacramento--as a migrant farm worker following the path of the harvest season. Frances packed everything from cherries to peaches with a diligent and intense work ethic.
Interestingly, it was at one of the local packing houses where Frances met a fellow worker, Theresa Ricchiuti. These two girls forged a friendship and bond that lasted a lifetime. Theresa, who was so fond of Frances, admiring her spirit, thought she would be a perfect match for her brother, Pat.
Once Pat met Frances, it did not take long for him to recognize Frances' loyalty, sweetness, and unwavering devotion. Pat knew in his heart Frances would be a loving wife and mother. In fact, before Pat left to serve his country in 1942, with the United States Army, he asked Frances to marry him. During this four-year span of time, many letters were written between this young, engaged couple.
On April 28, 1946--just one month after Pat was discharged from the Army--Pat and Frances were married in the O Street Seventh-day Adventist Church. From that day forward, for better for worse, Pat and Frances joined together to build a family, a life, and a prosperous business by way of hard work and sacrifice.
There was no quit in either one of these two individuals. Through 62 years of marriage, working side-by-side, Pat and Frances raised their four children and grew a business. Together, with their son Patrick, they founded P-R Farms Inc., in 1963, and continued over the years to expand and diversify their family farm operation.
The heartfelt appreciation Pat and Frances held for all their success and happiness was evident in their philanthropic gifts and support, which truly helped make area hospitals, churches, schools, universities, and the greater community a better place for all.
Frances always found true joy in the excitement of a bountiful harvest, baking and cooking Italian delicacies like taralli, pizza, and tiramisu, welcoming large gatherings of family and friends into her home, celebrating holidays and special occasions, hosting out of town guests, traveling around the globe--including many memorable stays in Italy surrounded by her adoring relatives--cheering on the Fresno State Bulldogs, taking car rides around the family ranches, and cuddling a newborn grandchild or great-grandchild.
Frances was forever grateful for the lifelong abundance of God's blessings, including the loving care of all who remained by her side during the close of her life.
Frances is preceded in death by her husband, Pat; infant child, Lorene Janice; siblings Mauro, Nicola, Giovanni, Emilia, and Vincenzo Grande; sweet granddaughter, Keri Marie Rau. Frances is survived by her son, Patrick Ricchiuti and his wife, Vinci; daughter Lorene Rau and her husband, Samuel Mushegan; daughter Teri Ann Ricchiuti and her husband, Steve Losey; daughter Mari Ann Ricchiuti; grandchildren, Vincent Ricchiuti and his wife, Ashley; Cristina Kantor and her husband, Niels; Andriana Ricchiuti; Fredrick Rau and his wife, Leslie; Danielle Ricchiuti; six great-grandchildren, Canon, Windsor, and Monet Kantor; Chiara, Ilaria, and Rocco Ricchiuti; plus her beloved sister Josephina and many dear nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Visitation will take place on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Whitehurst, Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home located at 836 East Nees Avenue, Fresno, CA 93720.
A Celebration of Life honoring Frances Ricchiuti will be held on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. at Fresno Central Seventh-day Adventist Church located at 2980 East Yale Avenue, Fresno, CA 93703.
Remembrances may be made to Fresno State Ag One Foundation, Valley Children's Hospital Foundation, Community Regional Medical Center Foundation, or the Seventh-day Adventist Academy.
Published in Fresno Bee from Apr. 26 to Apr. 27, 2021.