Robert M. Lucarelli, who grew up with a hammer in his hand, but also showed an early talent for design, and who with his three brothers carried forward the upholstery business their Italian immigrant father founded, died Sunday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. He was 83.
Mr. Lucarelli had Alzheimer’s disease and developed pneumonia, his wife, Claire, said. She cared for him in their South Toledo home during his five-year illness.
The eldest of his siblings, Mr. Lucarelli had been president of Al’s Upholstery on Monroe Street, which his father started on Summit Street in North Toledo in 1930. His father worked nearly until his death at 93 in 1989.
Through the years, as Mr. Lucarelli assumed more responsibilities, “he wanted to offer more specialized custom furniture than my grandfather was doing,” said his son, Steve, who works at the business. A second line was added to the company name: “Originals by Lucarelli.”
“He could build whatever the customer wanted, advising them along the way,” son Steve said. “We put out one-of-a-kind things.”
In time, all four of the elder Mr. Lucarelli’s sons worked in the business — Victor is now president — and a third generation has been involved for more than 30 years.
Mr. Lucarelli was born May 20, 1931, the son of Louise and Albert.
“We got pictures of him holding a hammer at 3 years old,” his wife said. “He grew up in the business.”
The family had lived above the shop on Summit Street near Ash Street. Mr. Lucarelli showed a knack in his youth for “decorating and constructing, rebuilding and improving,” The Toledo Blade Pictorial noted in 1953.
He created a rumpus room that “rivals most night clubs in size and grandeur,” said the magazine, which called the residence a “North Toledo Home of Splendor.”
The building was in the way of I-280, so the family moved to West Toledo in the 1950s. They again lived over the shop, and Mr. Lucarelli designed the space and the furniture.
Mr. Lucarelli was a 1949 graduate of Central Catholic High School and had a bachelor of fine arts degree from Ohio State University, where his major was interior design. He was a first lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps and was assigned to hydrogen bomb tests in Nevada. He was recalled to duty in 1962 for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Surviving are his wife, Claire, whom he married Aug. 24, 1957; sons, Robert, Jr., Michael, Steve, and Frank Lucarelli; daughters, LouAnn Johnoff and Angie Lavergne; sisters, Edie O’Brien and Rita Peters; brothers, Victor, Albert “Sonny,” and Tony, and 16 grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Friday in the Coyle Funeral Home, where a Scripture service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, where Mr. Lucarelli was a member.
The family suggests tributes to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
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