CAIRO — Greene County Coroner Richard Vigilo passed away Sunday night at Columbia Memorial Health at the age of 83.
In addition to serving as a coroner for 23 years, Vigilo founded Richards Funeral Homes of the Mid-Hudson Valley Inc. and operated several funeral homes throughout his career including Richards Funeral Home in Cairo in 1965, Athens in 1971 and in Hudson from 1974-2007. Vigilo acquired W.C. Brady’s Son Funeral Home in Coxsackie in 1989.
Greene County Coroner Paul Seney worked with Vigilo for nine years and described working with him as a tremendous joy.
“He devoted his entire life to caring for the people of Greene County,” Seney said.
Greene County Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, described Vigilo’s death as a big loss to the community.
“He was a very generous person to our community,” Lawrence said. “I’ve heard many stories where people spoke highly of him because when they were in desperate straits, Richard was more than accommodating to them in terms of getting services done and delayed payments of that nature. He was a businessman, but never one to put pressure on people to pay immediately.”
Vigilo will also be remembered for being a visionary, Lawrence said.
“He was one of the first men to come up with an ambulance system for the town of Cairo,” Lawrence said. “Before the flycar system, Richard’s ambulance service was one of the first ambulance systems in Greene County to deal with the residential need for emergency services.”
Richards Ambulance Service operated from 1965-94.
Vigilo will be remembered fondly by the town, Councilwoman Mary Jo Cords said.
“He’s been a very important part of the community,” Cords said. “He was a very kind and generous person. I think he has been a center of the community for so many years and has contributed to the community. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. That’s very, very sad and very, very sad for the town.”
Seney wrote a heartfelt tribute to Vigilo on his Facebook page.
“Tonight I lost the most important human being in my life,” according to the post. “He gave me life, love and hope. I will honor you each day of my life. You are a true legend of Greene County and you gave your life to helping others. Richard E. Vigilo, you made a difference in the world and so will I. I love you and thank you for having me in your life — Your son.”
“That is what he called me, his son,” Seney said Thursday.
Seney recalled Vigilo’s amusement with a massage chair.
“I have a massage chair at my house so I had him over for dinner and he’d never been in one and it was the most hilarious thing — the noises and sounds he was making,” Seney said. “The faces and noises and things he was saying was just priceless. He loved it and wanted one.”
In addition to massage chairs, Vigilo had an affinity for his poodle, Fame.
“She was his little ray of sunshine,” Seney said. “She was his whole world.”
Vigilo also loved his parents dearly, Seney said.
“In my life, I have never met anyone who loved and adored his parents and his dog, Fame [so much],” Seney said. “He could not even mention his parents’ names without mourning them and missing them.”
Seney declined to discuss the future of the Richards Funeral Homes.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss those issues,” he said. “I would certainly believe that Richard took care of his legacy.”
Vigilo was a graduate of Temple University, Eckles College of Mortuary Science and Renaud’s School of Embalming in Philadelphia.
Vigilo decided to become a coroner because he enjoyed helping people, he said in a 2018 interview with The Daily Mail.
As a funeral director, he often saw people on their darkest days.
“A big part of the job is helping people who don’t know where to turn or what to do,” Vigilo said in 2018. “We help guide them.”
Vigilo’s cause of death has not been released.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend walk-thru visitation at The Community Life Church, in Catskill, on Jan. 17, from 1-8 p.m. A private Mass will be celebrated in The Sacred Heart Church in Cairo, followed by a private interment with U.S. Army military honors in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Catskill.