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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Widower’s love to benefit Pawtucket students attending URI

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KINGSTON, R.I. –July 30, 2007—Chris DiCarlo grew up in West Warwick, the oldest of 10 children. He had to drop out of high school during his freshman year because his family needed money.

His first job was at the former Royal Mills, where he filled the mills’ looms with bobbins. After two years, he went to work at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, first as a laborer, then storekeeper, and eventually as a production controller. He worked at Quonset for 31 years, interrupted by World War II. Chris served with the U.S. Army in the Pacific.

He was on furlough when he met the love of his life, Ida Zuromski at a boxing match in the former Rhode Island Auditorium. When Ida was momentarily standing alone, Chris crossed the lobby to talk with her. He asked her for a date and she agreed.

With $5 bucks in his pocket, he drove a borrowed car to Ida’s home in Central Falls. Her mother answered the door and told Chris that her daughter was sleeping. The mother, feeling sorry for the young G.I., went up stairs and to wake her. When she came downstairs Ida was surprised to see Chris. She didn’t think he had been serious about a date.

They married in 1946 and set up housekeeping in Pawtucket. The couple didn’t have children, but they doted on their nephews and nieces.

Although Ida, like Chris, never finished high school, she was good with numbers. She enrolled in night school and was hired by Citizens Bank where she worked for 23 years. While Chris studied investments at the library, Ida took care of the household budget.

Chris remembers Ida sat at her desk every Wednesday night to make out the bills. “She handled everything,” he says, noting that she would leave him $35 in cash for the week on the hutch. “At first it was $25, but then she gave me a raise,” he adds with a chuckle. “We did very well.”

Ida died last August, a few weeks short of the couple’s 60th anniversary. “Boy, do I miss her,” he says, his voice breaking. “We got along so well. She was terrific, terrific, terrific.”

Chris wanted to memorialize Ida. When his niece Kathryn Haggarty’s son Josh enrolled at URI, Chris thought about creating an endowed scholarship at the state University. Both he and Ida believed strongly in education, particularly because their own formal education had been cut short. Chris wanted the scholarship in Ida’s name, but his niece convinced him to add his own name.

The Ida and Chris DiCarlo Endowment was established this spring with a $50,000 gift. The endowed scholarship will help students from Pawtucket attending URI. The gift is part of URI’s Making A Difference Campaign.

"Chris is a remarkable and engaging man. He values helping others and he values education,” says Robert Beagle, URI vice president of University Advancement. “He is someone who treasures knowledge, other people, and good deeds. He has combined those commitments into a significant scholarship for deserving students at URI. I have also been struck by his commitment to public education. When you talk with Chris, it's very clear that he sees URI as being essential to Rhode Islanders."

The University’s Making a Difference Campaign, which will be publicly launched this fall, seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives.