WATERTOWN, NY — Richard John Grieco, Sr., local civil servant, community leader, and devoted family man, passed peacefully on the first of August 2021 in the company of family of natural causes at the age of 82.
The second-born son of the late Louis George Grieco, Sr., and Laura Canale Grieco, and known to his oldest family and friends affectionately as “Dick” or “Studly”, Richard was born July 29, 1939, into the first U.S. born generation of his Italian family and grew up on the sand flats in Watertown, New York.
Known to many for his pure kindness, warm spirit and as a true gentleman, Richard was a celebrated high school and college athlete. In 1958 he graduated Watertown High School where he lettered in football, basketball, wrestling, and track and field. He received the William I. Graf Memorial award as outstanding athlete, and to this day holds a standing NYS track and field records.
Following graduation, Richard attended The Manlius School, in Syracuse, NY, for further college preparatory study. He often expressed his gratitude for the community focused education he received and enforcing personal discipline. Richard received multiple offers to play college football, including from legendary University of Alabama head coach, Bear Bryant. Richard ultimately accepted Texas Christian University’s offer, joined the Horned Frogs of TCU and commenced his formal study of Construction Management and Community Development and bull riding. While playing at TCU, he shared the field with the likes of legendary Jim Brown and Roger Staubach. In 1961, his college career was cut short when, as an innocent by-stander and defending a friend, he was shot in a bar room brawl near campus in Ft. Worth. Shot just left of mid-center, he nearly lost his life. Richard was eternally thankful to his beloved Uncle Louis “Doc” Battista, Sr., who travelled (along with Richard’s mother and brother) to Texas to bring Yankee Cowboy home.
His future grandchildren would be proud to report that their grandfather lived life with two belly buttons!
Once back home, Richard joined the family business of Jefferson County Realty
Company helping his father with real estate development, property management and as the ever reliable first responder for snow removal and midnight re-lightings of the furnaces in the Lincoln and Burdick buildings. In 1965, Richard went to work for the City of Watertown and began his career in community development. In 1984, Richard accepted the position of Regional Construction Supervisor and Code Enforcement Specialist for the State of New York, Division of Urban Renewal and Community Development and began driving across the state, often weekly! Known for his direct and clear communication, commitment to industry and community education, and encouraging cooperation to do whatever was needed to get the job done right, and on-time. A favorite acronym often heard from him was “TCB!” and meant taking care of business, which he did with joy.
Within his 30+ years “in government” he also worked as a frequent volunteer and dedicated Civil Servant before retiring in 2008. Richard dedicated energy, time and passion campaigning for causes and candidates he believed in, on every side of the aisle. His open style of communication and willingness to dig in led him to serve in many an elected capacity, including the Upstate NY Civil Service Employees’ Association (CSEA), President Local Chapter 823 (1963-1985) and also in regional leadership with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). A trusted liaison for the public interest and a passionate communicator for the issues of the working class in his day, he received numerous letters of thanks and commendation from state governors, elected representatives, local business leaders and non-profits alike, each expressing appreciation for his service. Forever proud of his Italian heritage and his hometown, Richard was an altruistic advocate for good and lived his life with GUSTO!
Richard enjoyed camping, traveling, capturing the moment, sharing family stories and interviewing elders, gardening, boating, working on the boat, fishing, traveling the open road, Italian food and one nice cold beer after mowing the lawn. His greatest joy was to participate in the lives of his children and grandchildren, smiling, listening intently, supporting their dreams and always sharing stories.
The 2001 widower of Carolyn O’Reilly Grieco, Richard is survived by Linda Woolf, his beloved late life partner and also Watertown native; his eldest son Richard John Grieco Jr., two daughters Elizabeth and Laura Grieco, son David O’Reilly Grieco and wife, daughter-in-law Nyakio Kamoche Grieco. He was “Papa” to his five grandchildren, Dylan Justice (Richard), Cade Elizabeth (Elizabeth), Ruby Taylor (Laura), Luisa Carolyn, and Rocco Jid (David and Nyakio), all of whom he treasured his time with.
Predeceased by his elder brother Louis in April 2012, Richard is survived by his brother’s widow, sister-in-law Lynda R. Grieco, and her son, his dear nephew Louis G. Grieco, III. Also surviving Richard, his sister Sandra Peck, her husband Tom, her sons, Joseph and Michael Perkins, the many nieces and nephews, and wonderful
cousins he loved dearly. Predeceasing her uncle in 1983, Sandra’s daughter Alicia Lynn Perkins. Survived as well by many members of his extended family, with whom Richard and family shared decades of good laughs and “get-togethers” on Lake Ontario and in Chaumont Bay, boating, BBQing, tossing horseshoes, playing croquet and bocce. No matter where he was, Richard spent his life living out loud, listening carefully, smiling often, connecting with people and celebrating life.
A local celebration of his life and gathering of family and friends will be held
around his birthday in late July 2022 and will be organized by family.