You Know My Cousin

A Large, Multigenerational Family Blends Tradition and Values With Love and Memories

Vince Cirianni

Fifth-Generation Bridgewater-Raritan Resident

What is your family’s immigration story? 

Both sets of my grandparents emigrated from towns in the Calabria area of Southern Italy and settled in Raritan in the late 1950s. The families were close. My grandfathers served in both World Wars and decided to move their families to the United States for more opportunities and a better life. 

My maternal grandfather, Vincenzo Ruffa, who I was named after, and grandmother, Domenica, met at age 5 in Italy, married and had six children before moving to Raritan to join his brother, Domenico, who had already moved here in the 1950s. Vincenzo was married more than 60 years, only spoke Italian and worked doing manual labor. 

From the 1960s until my grandfather’s death in 2008, Raritan was predominantly populated by people from my parents’ Italian hometowns of San Gregorio and Sant'Onofrio. Each generation of families stayed close by, some living just blocks from each other. My parents still live in Raritan, near Frelinghuysen Park, along with many other family members.

How big is your extended family today?

Combined, the family had more than 150 people, including in-laws. Most children have stayed in the area. In the Ruffa family, my mother’s side, there are five generations of 109 people: her two parents, six children, 21 grandchildren, 58 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great grandchildren with three more on the way. In the Cirianni family, my father’s side, there are four generations of 59 people: his two parents, seven children, 17 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. 

Tell us about your immediate family and life. 

I met my wife, Marisa, who was in the last graduating class of 1991 at Bridgewater-Raritan High School West, when she was a senior through my fourth-generation cousin and my sister, Rose Cirianni (Fischer), who were her friends. We have three children: Luke (17), Vincenzo (15) and Olivia (13), who attend the Bridgewater schools. 

I have been in the financial services industry for 25 years and work as a partner with the Preferred Client Group. When I'm not working, I have a passion for philanthropy. For example, I serve on the Raritan Valley Community College Foundation Board. 

Discuss your family’s love of soccer.

Soccer is in our blood. In 1972, my father, uncle and other Italian immigrant fathers formed the Bridgewater-Raritan Soccer Club, which is now called the Bridgewater Soccer Academy (BSA). I started playing soccer at age 5 and played for 40 years. I played every day on a grass field in the park with many other children. Soccer molded us through motivation, determination and teamwork. I played in club, high school, college and semi-pro leagues, like many of my cousins, while coaching at the BSA for 10 years. My sons were in the program and my daughter still plays in the BSA today.

What are your favorite memories of growing up in such a large Italian family?

One of my favorite memories is how every Thanksgiving morning for 20 years, my friends and family would play a friendly game of soccer against each other. 

I also remember having two to four cousins in my classes. We all went to everyone’s family celebrations and enjoyed our shared Italian culture, along with backyard gardens and homemade wine and pasta. Since our family is so big now, the experience is not the same for my children. They don’t know who is related to them. My daughter keeps coming to me and asking “Dad, who is your cousin?”

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