Those who have known Victor Laruccia describe him as more than alive.
“It was all about him,” said his stepdaughter Jennifer Davies. “He had a big heart, he was generous with his time and thoughts, he had big hugs – everyone knows Victor’s big hugs – he had a big laugh, a big smile, and most of all, he had a great brain. ”
The 80-year-old San Diego native died March 17 after losing his battle with stage-4 stomach cancer. Friends and family have agreed that his legacy will live on through the San Diego Italian Film Festival, which he founded nearly 17 years ago.
Laruccia was born on September 28, 1941, in Santiago, Chile, to an Italian-Argentine father and mother from a small Italian working town in western Pennsylvania. His passion for Italian culture was inherited from birth.
Laruccia returned to the United States as a child and learned to read and write “as an Italian Catholic” in Pennsylvania.
Davies said Laruccia often acknowledges that she failed twice from Yale. But after joining the Marines for a time he attended UC San Diego and was part of the first graduate class in 1966. He went on to earn his Master’s and a medical degree in comparative literature. .
“For Victor, knowledge is a journey and a journey to share … whether it’s teaching or being my father or being a friend or being a mentor,” he said. lea a Davies.
Victor Laruccia sits at his desk surrounded by writing in the early 1960s.
(Courtesy of the Laruccia family)
Laruccia continued to explore her passion for learning by going back east to study semiotics and art at Brown University in Rhode Island. .
Laruccia’s film is the only one of former student Mollie Miller. She says her experience in that class changed the course of her life.
“A lot of what I learned was stupid, a lot of freedom Victor gave you,” he said. “He’s an amazing person, out of the mind box.”
During her time at Brown, Laruccia began exploring in cinema. He made films with some of his students, including a record in Federal Hill, the Italian suburb of Providence.
“We didn’t really know how to make a movie with Victor just pigeon in and he didn’t care about it,” said Miller, who worked on the film. “He was just an unbelievable dream … and he always inspires you to be a dreamer (too) and not worry too much about the things of life.”
Laruccia taught at UC San Diego before working as a communications manager in the city of Pasadena. When he retired in 1995, he returned to San Diego and spent a lot of time on his passion for Italian culture. San Diegans recognized him as a leader in the arts and culture scene.
Already a member of the executive committee of the Italian film festival, Laruccia in 2005 founded the San Diego Italian Film Festival (SDIFF).
What started as a way to share his passion for Italian film and culture and a few films at the Italian Theater in Balboa Park have grown to offer annual programs throughout the district.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on good photos,” Laruccia told the Union-Tribune in an interview for the festival’s 10 years. “Italian films have a very small budget; a lot of money is less than the food budget for Hollywood blockbusters. There is a lot of creativity involved. ”
Since its inception, the festival has grown not only in popularity but has also become something more than just a movie.
Laruccia told UT the festival is “about the history, identity and mutual appreciation of Italian cinema and culture – in a word, community.”
SDIFF director Antonio Iannotta confirmed that. “He (SDIFF) strongly believes not only as a way to entertain people, but to bring people together, to share something better – a conversation, understanding, interests – (and) to learn more. not only Italian culture, but also American culture from an Italian perspective. ”
Iannotta met Laruccia shortly after she moved to San Diego from the Napoli region of Italy in 2012. She said that although their friendship has always revolved around love and passion for the Italian cinema, Laruccia’s mentor he will miss so much.
“He encouraged me over the years, and he taught me a lot of things,” Iannotta said. Laruccia “has never been supportive, but has been working with me, listening to me – and also trying to learn from me as much as possible.”
Victor Laruccia and his wife Janice.
(Courtesy of the Laruccia family)
Beth Accomando, an art writer for KPBS, recalled meeting Laruccia and thought “everything she talks about seems very important to her and is really worth the enthusiasm.”
“From the moment I met him, he was someone I knew would be a huge strength to our art team,” he added. “He brought a passion and ideas and energy.”
Saundra Saperstein, SDIFF board member and longtime friend, said Laruccia loves life more than anyone she knows.
“He was full of enthusiasm, especially for the festival because he was so passionate about bringing Italian culture to San Diego,” she said. “Almost everyone who knows him, or knows him, really misses him.”
Laruccia was born to his wife of 47, Janice Laruccia; his stepdaughter, Jennifer Davies; granddaughter, Gabrielle Williams; and his grandson, Jack Stetz.
The family has asked to replace the flowers, to make donations in the name of Laruccia at the San Diego Italian Film Festival at sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com/get-involved/donate.