Love abounds for Hempfield Area alum, super fan Terry Ranieri
The Hempfield Area football team is on the field. Cheerleaders wave pompoms on the sidelines. Band members wearing royal blue and white pump up the crowd from the stands.
And Terry Ranieri meanders around the stadium, sharing smiles and high-fives with anyone who wants one.
Many there know him — from parents whose kids have long since graduated to young students. And if they haven’t met him yet, Ranieri, 63, is sure to make a new friend.
“The kids are so nice up there. I love them,” he said.
They love him back.
“My mom’s whole generation, they all know Terry,” said Erica Shuglie, a 1994 Hempfield graduate. “And all these generations below, we all know him. I know him, my kids know him.”
“He should be the mascot here,” she said. “He’s always been so friendly, and he’s always been so upbeat.”
More than 5,000 like and follow the “ Terry Ranieri Official Fanpage ” on Facebook, which includes a number of classic “Terryisms” — such as “jammin’ like Route 30,” “cool like whip” and “rappin’ like Reynolds.”
Ranieri’s super fan story started more than 40 years ago, when he was a student in the district. Since graduating in 1975, he has donned Spartan garb and attended home football games regularly — as long as the weather is good. It’s the atmosphere, socializing and the Chick-fil-A sandwiches that lure him on Friday nights.
“I’m just their biggest fan,” he said.
On a recent cool Friday night, Ranieri stood by a fence near the track. He wore a pink glow stick around his neck and a Spartans hooded sweatshirt. He walked back and forth in front of the home crowd and took up a spot near the band while they prepared for the halftime show.
He gave other fans a thumbs-up or high-five. Many greeted him by name.
Ranieri’s loyalty has been recognized by the band and cheerleaders. He was part of on-field pregame ceremonies more than 10 years ago after stadium renovations were completed.
“He can just relate to everyone,” said his sister, Linda DeFloria. “It just doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old or rich or poor.”
In fact, Ranieri has made so many friends that he gets recognized practically everywhere — from the beach to steelhead fishing in Erie, said his brothers, Danny and Tony.
The Spartan band’s drumline adds more excitement to Friday nights for Ranieri after a home win or loss. The group performs a show outside the school after games, and the rhythmic drumbeats draw him in. Ranieri, who has a developmental disorder called Williams syndrome, is a “percussion nut,” Tony Ranieri said.
“When the kids see him, they always perk up,” said band director Brian Tychinski. “It’s been really nice and really beneficial for our kids to see Terry. … He’s the No. 1 super fan of the band.”
When Ranieri isn’t at Community Living Care in Greensburg twice a week, he likes looking online at instruments or musical videos and watching “The Three Stooges.”
He visits Westmoreland Mall on Saturdays to socialize some more — and for Chick-fil-A and Dairy Queen.
“You might think that not being able to live on his own … would be a burden, but it’s not,” Tony Ranieri said.
He wants his brother to be immortalized on a Wall of Fame at Hempfield Area High School. His popularity and outgoing nature make him a perfect fit for such an honor.
“He’s a joy to have,” DeFloria said. “He’s a joy to be around.”
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.