Russ Laraway remembers growing up on Richmond Drive in Washington Township, Gloucester County, like most youngsters: playing sports, riding his bike around the neighborhood, getting together with neighbors, which included relatives, over the holidays.
What Laraway and his friends couldn’t have imagined is how this street — which began with just 12 houses in the ’70s and later expanded — has produced so many successful professionals.
“It ended up being this great environment,” Laraway said by phone from Utah. “We grew up together, there were many cousins together, and all the kids on the street seamlessly integrated.”
Among those who grew up on Richmond: the current president of the San Francisco 49ers, an award-winning Hollywood costume designer, and Laraway, a former Google and Twitter executive who is now chief people officer of software company Qualtrics.
Even today, traveling down Richmond Drive, it looks like most any neighborhood, especially in Washington Township. There were four models of homes when the original 12 were built, and the same four styles are repeated throughout the street: split-level, bi-level, colonial, and rancher. The woods behind the development were cleared out decades ago, making way for many more homes. A good workout is walking the entire street, seven-tenths of a mile, and waving to neighbors along the way. It still looks and feels like typical Americana.
When the original 12 families lived on the street — some related, others friends — none were college graduates.
Frank and Marge Scaravaglione, the uncle and aunt of Russ Laraway, moved to Richmond Drive in the ’70s and still live there.
The Scaravagliones have three children: Matt and Joe, who are insurance executives, and Elizabeth Merulla, a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree from Penn.
“My generation was more like stay-home moms, with dads working,” Frank Scaravaglione said. “We encouraged our children to go where the opportunity was, as hard as it was not to have them around.”
That has been the case with many of the people from Richmond Drive, who have found employment far away from South Jersey, although several remain in the area.
Art and Anne Fiedler, the Scaravagliones’ best friends, also moved to Richmond Drive in the ’70s and had three daughters. Their oldest, Roseanne Fiedler, a 1983 graduate of Washington Township High, lives in Los Angeles, where she is a highly accomplished costume designer and stylist who has worked on movies, television shows, and a long list of commercials.
Most recently, she worked on projects with actor Alec Baldwin, first in Capital One commercials and most recently in the Match Game. She still enjoys keeping up with people from the neighborhood on social media.
“We are always sharing information on Instagram and go in private chats and it is great keeping up,” Fiedler said in a phone interview. “We don’t have family in Jersey, so the people on Richmond Drive kind of became our cousins. Every holiday, it was great.”
Fiedler’s two sisters have also enjoyed successful careers. Michele Fiedler is a paralegal in Philadelphia, and Kristine Conn works at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she’s a nurse manager.
Marge and Al Guido — Al’s the brother of Marge Scaravaglione — also lived on Richmond Drive. Their son Al, a 1998 Washington Township graduate, is president of the San Francisco 49ers. He played a major role in having Levi’s Stadium built in Santa Clara, replacing aging Candlestick Park in 2014.
“When I got the job with the 49ers, my cousin Matt (Scaravaglione) sent me a congratulatory letter, saying, ‘No matter what you do, never forget where you came from,’” Guido said in a recent interview.
And he hasn’t forgotten his time there. Even living on the West Coast, Guido has a daily reminder of his youth.
“I have a Richmond Drive sign that hangs in a room,” said Guido, a graduate of the College of New Jersey. “It was a great upbringing there.”
This past NFL season, the 49ers reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It was awesome this year, in our run to the Super Bowl, and getting pictures from Richmond Drive with all of my cousins wearing 49ers gear,” Guido said.
Many of those who grew up on Richmond Drive and moved on to other parts of the region and country still get together for special neighborhood functions, including the annual Christmas Eve party — a tradition at the Scaravagliones’ home.
“We would have the seven fishes dinner. It was a huge party with all the people from the neighborhood,” Guido said. “Every year you would look forward to that.”
Russ Laraway’s mom, Marie Laraway, was Frank Scaravaglione’s sister. She and her husband, also named Russ, moved to Richmond Drive in 1977, when young Russ was 5. He has kept up with many of those from the neighborhood. He also had some business dealings in the past with Guido, his cousin.
“I would say when we were young, we didn’t have a vision like we were going to make something out of ourselves,” said Laraway, a 1990 graduate of Washington Township. “We were lucky we had parents who encouraged us to reach our goals.”
Laraway’s sister, Tracy Colligan, a 1986 Washington Township graduate, was named in December as Hurffville Elementary School’s teacher of the year. The school is located in Washington Township.
“I think when you see my brothers, cousins, and others from the neighborhood who have done so well, it is pretty amazing where we came from, and it speaks a lot to family traditions and priorities the families had to see that their children could have the chance to succeed,” Colligan said.