Hundreds paid tribute to the late Larry Zarletti at the final Twilight Jazz 2013 event Tuesday night outside the Anderson Arts Center.
The program featured renowned vocalist Wayne Messmer, along with local singers Sue Crawford and Joya Santarelli, accompanied by the Parkside Reunion Big Band under the direction of Jack Plovanich using Zarletti’s charts.
Zarletti, 60, died unexpectedly July 8 from a heart attack. The former three-term Kenosha County sheriff was well known as a jazz vocalist but chose law enforcement over Las Vegas early in his career.
Zarletti, a regular Twilight Jazz headliner, was to be the featured singer Tuesday night.
Between sets, Messmer, a longtime friend and onetime fellow performer with Plovanich, said when Plovanich told him of Zarletti’s love for music and his untimely death, he didn’t hesitate to accept Plovanich’s offer to sing for Zarletti’s tribute.
“When I keel over, I hope someone sings a song for me,” Messmer said.
As Tuesday’s show drew near to the end, Messmer, who already had sung eight solos, took the stage with Crawford to lead the crowd in singing Zarletti’s signature song, “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Sitting with friends at the concert, Dan Zarletti, 63, one of Larry’s brothers, said during the intermission, “I think it’s great they didn’t cancel the event because Larry couldn’t be here, and that, in the process, they made it a tribute.”
Dan called Larry an icon in the Zarletti family, for whom the rest of the family was satisfied to sit on the sidelines and cheer.
When he eulogized Larry last month, Dan “thanked God for knowing Larry for 60 years and 101 days.”
“I have to lean on that, then I can go over the memories of times we had together,” Dan said Tuesday. “But the truth is, I don’t want him to be gone. ... Nobody wanted to see him gone. I have a hard time speaking of him in the past tense.”
As he spoke, a number of friends and well wishers stopped by, many wearing “Zarletti for Sheriff” T-shirts from Larry’s first successful bid for the office.
“He loved a challenge,” Dan said, smiling softly and recounting how Larry’s most recent foray into selling real estate started almost as he did in the Sheriiff’s Department: He started from scratch, learned the ropes and began moving up steadily.
“He always considered other people before himself. I would call that unselfish. I think that’s why people liked him so much,” Dan said.