Remembering Grace Ricci, longtime, devoted Dayton volunteer
Submitted by Laura Tennant
Celebration of Life – August 13, 10 a.m.
Dayton Baptist Church
Grace Testolin Ricci, a Dayton icon and community volunteer for more than 50 years, passed away peacefully on July 19 with her family at her side at her son, Joe, and daughter-in-law Suzanne’s house in Dayton. Grace and I have been friends for more than 60 years.
August 9 was Grace’s 89th birthday and it just did not seem right to have to say goodbye then. Yet, Grace had always been a realist and she was prepared. During the last few months, her health had deteriorated and she said:
“When the man upstairs makes that decision, I will be ready.” Grace was a devoted Catholic who had a profound belief in God and is now resting in peace in his hands and she will be missed by hundreds of friends and family.
Besides her husband Joe, her children, Joe and Butch (deceased), the loves of Grace’s life were her grandchildren, Domenic and Christie, who adored her too.
Grace and her husband Joe were married in 1953 and that is when she moved from her birthplace and family ranch home in Fallon to the Ricci Ranch in Dayton. Then, Grace was employed as a secretary for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Carson City. I too worked in Carson and she gave me a ride to work every day.
Grace began her Dayton community leadership in the early 1960s when she was the president of the Silver-Dayton PTA.
Through the years, Grace became one of the most loyal friends I have ever had. We raised our kids together in numerous 4-H programs, PTA and the Dayton High Booster Club during the 1970s into the 1990s when the last ones graduated. We were an extended family. Besides being a livestock sheep-raising 4-H leader, Grace led the gardening club for 27 years.
When the Dayton historical society was founded about 1987, Grace was elected the treasurer and handled the Society’s funds for 29 years. Grace’s books always balanced to the penny, even if she had to stay up all night to do it and this is how Grace lived her life, honestly and dedicated to every task she took on.
Grace had a wonderful sense of humor and she often revealed humorous stories about the perils of rural life. Sometimes, the phone would ring early in the morning and Grace would have read a cartoon or joke in a paper or periodical she wanted to share with Stony or me. We liked starting the day that way.
I will miss sitting at the Ricci’s kitchen table by the warmth of the wood stove in the winter, listening to Grace reminisce about her childhood on the family ranch five miles east of Fallon, where she was born and raised.
Grace’s father, Antonio, emigrated from Italy and homesteaded their ranch property in 1906. Antonio and Grace’s mother, Italia, raised seven children on the 120-acre farm and ranch. From the time she was a little girl, Grace and her siblings had farming chores to do and when she married Joe Ricci in 1953, she was the perfect sheep and cattle ranchers’ wife.
Grace and Joe had two sons, Butch (Bernard) and Joey, who grew up and helped their mom and dad run the ranch that had been owned by Joe’s parents since around 1900. Although Joe passed away in 1993, Grace never left the ranch and today, it is one of the few working ranches left in Dayton.
When Joe was elected Lyon County Commissioner in 1958, the year Butch was born, she quit her job in town and became a full-time rancher’s wife.
Grace not only cooked the family meals, she canned what she raised in her large garden that she hoed and weeded faithfully and she also mothered the “bummer” lambs born on the ranch, going outside at night during a cold spring snowstorm to take the little lambs into her warm kitchen, where she bottle fed them for days.
Grace was an early-morning riser: By the time most people in Dayton were up for the day, Grace had made a cake from scratch, fed the animals and scrubbed the floors. Grace took some of life’s worst blows in her stride and I so admired her strength of character, loyalty to friends and work ethic. She taught so many youths, other people and me so much about the realities of life.
Grace was particularly proud that her husband Joe served Lyon County as a commissioner for 20 years and that he saved today’s Dayton Valley Community Center when the county had plans to tear down the 1918 schoolhouse, where he had graduated from high school.
A celebration of Grace’s life will be held at the Dayton Baptist Church on August 13 at 10 a.m. A reception will follow at the Dayton Community Center, where an old-fashioned pot luck, hosted by the Historical Society of Dayton Valley, will be held. Donations in her name may be made to the Historical Society of Dayton Valley (HSDV), P.O. 485, Dayton, NV 89403.