Love of horses keeps Elizabeth Twp. musician in saddle for Halloween ride
You have to get back on the horse that threw you.
It's just a saying for many people, but Jerry Lucarelli of Elizabeth Township takes the idea seriously.
Known to his friends as the Jazz Cowboy because of his passion for music and horses, Lucarelli took a spill while riding horseback as a child in the 1960s that landed him in the hospital for two days with a broken collarbone and concussion.
Lucarelli said that when he was released from the hospital, “I got on the horse the next day and went riding in South Park for a couple hours. I was so horse crazy and fearless. It didn't bother me at all.”
He's still mad about horses and fond of riding at South Park. On Tuesday at 5:45 p.m., Lucarelli will climb upon his quarter horse Shawnee Heart and recreate a haunting scene from Washington Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
This is the fourth year Lucarelli will ride as the Headless Horseman for Halloween. He rides around a garden area near the intersection of Corrigan Drive and McConkey Road, where there is ample parking for anyone who wishes to watch.
In the event of bad weather, Lucarelli said he will come back the following day at the same time to ride.
The spirit of getting back on the horse hasn't left Lucarelli over the decades. The week before last he was hospitalized for four days by walking pneumonia.
Lucarelli called for an ambulance and was admitted to the hospital because he was experiencing severe stomach cramps. Doctors put him on a regimen of antibiotics to help him overcame the illness. Three days after he was released, Lucarelli returned to South Park to practice for this year's ride.
“I got a little winded brushing and saddling the horse,” Lucarelli said. “Once I got on the horse I was fine. I know how to pace myself.”
Sally Lucarelli said it's hard to keep her husband out of the saddle.
“Every day is an adventure,” she said. “He's always been that way.”
As for riding so soon after a hospital stay, she said, “I trust his judgment. I just ask him, ‘Keep your cellphone on you, please.'”
Lucarelli is known to many for his presence on the local jazz scene. Last year, he was named a member of the Pittsburgh Jazz Society's Hall of Fame for his prowess on the piano. He taught music in Clairton City School District for several years before taking a job in the Keystone Oaks district, from which he retired four years ago.
Lucarelli will be available for photographs immediately following his ride.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.