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03/02/2022 07:30 AM

Rick Ruzzo: It Started with a Saxophone

In his retirement, Rick Ruzzo is keeping active by volunteering at The Estuary and also playing saxophone in the New Horizons Band at the Community Music School in Centerbrook.Photo courtesy of Rick Ruzzo

It’s not on the list of romantic gifts, but Rick Ruzzo decided to marry his wife Linda after she gave him a saxophone for his birthday.

“It wasn’t the only thing,” Rick clarifies. “Maybe she rues it. I never did.”

Today he plays that saxophone in the New Horizons Band at the Community Music School in Centerbrook.

The local band is part of the New Horizons organization that sponsors bands, orchestras, and choruses not only in the United States but also internationally. The programs are designed for adults who might have played an instrument as a youngster but now in later life want to return to it as well as adults now have the time to start lessons on an instrument they always wanted to play.

Rick was 40 when Linda gave him the saxophone.

“I just liked the sound,” he says.

He took a few lessons but then children and family life took his time.

Sometime within the last five years, he can’t remember quite when, he saw something about the local New Horizons band in a local newspaper. He contacted band director Paddy Hurley who invited him to a rehearsal.

“I thought I wasn’t ready for this, but Paddy was very persuasive,” Rick says. “I took a few lessons and tried to figure it out.”

Playing in the band was a challenge.

“It was a whole different aspect. You have to be in sync with other people, but when the whole thing comes together, it’s neat,” he says, adding, “I like playing different types of music.”

Now retired, Rick, who lives in Old Saybrook, was a psychiatric nurse in his professional life, often working with children.

“If you could help them then, maybe you could make things better later,” he says.

He hadn’t started out to be a nurse. At the University of Connecticut, he majored in sociology. Still, he says that what he remembers most from his college years, from 1967-’71, was the foment that not only overtook many college campuses but that was also reflected in more general societal turmoil.

“When I think back to what was going on, it was incredible; it was a cultural revolution. I didn’t really take advantage of academics, but I learned about the world, and government and politics through demonstrations, forums,” he says. “I remember getting up every morning and asking what had happened overnight.”

When he graduated, Rick recalls there were not a lot of jobs that seemed to require someone with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“There were no signs looking for a sociologist at large,” he recalls.

He got a job as a psychiatric aide at the Institute of Living in Hartford. He recalls that he was doing substantially the same work as nurses at the facility, but with one difference.

“They were getting paid a lot more,” he says.

The remedy seemed clear to him. Rick went back to school and got a nursing degree at what was then Mohegan Community College but is now Three Rivers Community College. He recalls there were few men who went into nursing when he started in 1977.

Male and female stereotypes clouded the perceptions of the youngsters with whom he worked.

“They would see me and ask how I could be a nurse because I wasn’t a girl,” he says. “And they would see a woman and ask how she could be a doctor.”

Rick worked both in hospital and in community mental health settings and even after his retirement continued to do per diem nursing.

Since his retirement, he and Linda, who also was a nurse, moved from Colchester to the shoreline because they wanted to live closer to the water. They kayak and canoe, and Rick also works at this time of year for the volunteer income tax preparation service sponsored by the nationwide by the AARP. Rick volunteers at The Estuary, the senior center of Old Saybrook.

His volunteer work grew from preparing his own taxes and then those of family members. Rick points out that every year the volunteer tax preparers have new material to master.

“The tax code never stays the same,” he says.

He enjoys seeing the same people year after year.

“They appreciate the help, especially when they get a refund,” he says.

Rick and Linda share their home with what he describes as two geriatric cats and a third feline, a Manx cat, distinguished because the breed has no tail. In addition, they have a dog, Penny Lane, a rescue who Rick believes has both Rottweiler and hunting dog because it points and lift a foot as a hunting breed would.

Rick and Linda were looking through rescue sites and saw the name Penny Lane and it appealed to them so much they got the dog. Rick thought the name Penny Lane was good karma because the restaurant in old Saybrook of the same name is a favorite of theirs.

Though he has a busy schedule, Rick never forgets the saxophone.

“I love practicing,” he says.

For information about the New Horizons Band, call the Community Music School at 860-767-0026 or visit For information on volunteer tax preparation help in Old Saybrook, call 860-388-1611.