Camille Q. Ridarelli, wife of singer Bobby Rydell

Posted: September 18, 2003

Camille Quattrone Ridarelli, 60, of Penn Valley, wife of former teen idol Bobby Rydell, her high school sweetheart, died Monday of cancer at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood.

She and Roberto Ridarelli - Bobby Rydell was a stage name - grew up blocks from each other in South Philadelphia.

In an interview several years ago, she said that when she was a student at St. Maria Goretti High School, "I used to see him on the trolley car when he went to [the old] Bishop Neumann, and wait for him, but he never gave me a second look." Rydell, then a drummer and singer with local bands, finally asked her out a few months before his song "Kissing Time" became a hit in 1959.

Rydell's managers frowned on his having a girlfriend.

"If I did get a chance to go anywhere with him," Mrs. Ridarelli said, "they said I was his cousin." Rydell couldn't escort her to her high school prom because he was on tour in Australia.

After graduating from St. Maria Goretti in 1961, she worked in the payroll department at an Oscar Mayer plant in Philadelphia and tried dating other men. But, she said, "I really loved Bobby."

When the couple were married in 1968 at Stella Maris Catholic Church in South Philadelphia, there were 1,000 adoring fans out front. The groom, who had made the film Bye Bye Birdie in 1963, told the press that he and his bride might move to Hollywood, but they stayed in the Philadelphia area.

After his recording career ended, Rydell performed in concerts and on cruises and at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. His wife stayed home and cared for their son, Robert, and daughter, Jennifer.

"She drove a station wagon, and we lived a very normal life," her daughter, Jennifer Dulin, said. She volunteered at her children's schools and chauffeured them to hockey and football practices and to choir and play rehearsals.

"She loved to cook," her daughter said, and prepared Italian specialties for her husband. He told a reporter several years ago that thanks to his wife and children, he hadn't regretted not moving to Hollywood.

When Camille and Rydell hosted a party for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary in 1990, he said he hoped that he and his wife would be able to renew their vows on their own golden anniversary.

Eleven years ago, Mrs. Ridarelli was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was in remission for several years, but returned two years ago.

Her daughter said Mrs. Ridarelli was devoted to her children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Her death came five weeks after the birth of her fourth grandchild, Caden Dulin. "She waited for him," her daughter said. "She got to hold him before she went into the hospital."

In addition to her husband, children and grandchildren, Mrs. Ridarelli is survived by her mother, Helen Quattrone; a sister, and a brother.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Margaret Catholic Church, 210 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth. Burial will be private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, 125 S. Ninth St., Suite 2002, Philadelphia 19107.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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