AP NEWS
Related topics

State’s ‘Mrs. Congeniality’ Has Trouble at Home

June 7, 1995

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) _ The woman who was named Mrs. Congeniality at the Mrs. New York State pageant is no contender for the title in her old neighborhood.

When Barbara Ricci lived in Mount Vernon, she slapped an off-duty police officer at a school board meeting and allegedly tried to run over a neighbor’s child.

``That’s not me. I know who I am and the person I am,″ Mrs. Ricci, 37, said Wednesday at her home, where pitchers of iced tea awaited the throng of reporters who climbed three flights to her new apartment.

More than once she apologized for not having food for the sudden influx of guests. ``If I had known,″ she said, ``I would have gotten cold cuts.″

She seemed congenial, all right.

``She’s someone you would like to have back every year,″ said Sheila M. Strassburg, executive director of the Mrs. New York State pageant, which was held in Niagara Falls last weekend. ``She was very popular. ... She’s a great girl, friendly, congenial, a person ready to cooperate at every turn.″

Only six of the 28 contestants voted for someone else for the congeniality award, Mrs. Strassburg said. Mrs. Ricci _ who didn’t win the Mrs. New York State crown _ was also voted Mrs. Civic-Minded.

Someone who might cast a dissenting vote would be Anna Merck, a former neighbor, who told police in May 1994 that Mrs. Ricci insulted her in front of her daughter with a vulgar racial slur.

On June 3, 1994, according to police, Mrs. Ricci tried to run over Mrs. Merck’s 11-year-old daughter as she crossed the street. The child tripped and cut her knee. Mrs. Ricci was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

Her trial ended with a hung jury in January, and she is set for a retrial later this month. She denies the allegation.

``I shouldn’t be judged by one woman who is bitter about life,″ said Mrs. Ricci. ``I’m not going to let a woman who doesn’t have a life interfere with my life.″

Like Mrs. Ricci, Mrs. Merck has moved from their old Mount Vernon neighborhood and could not be located for comment.

Mrs. Ricci’s other brush with the law came in 1993 when she ran unsuccessfully for the Mount Vernon school board, using the return of school prayer as her platform.

After she read a poem at a school board meeting decrying corruption in Mount Vernon, she slapped Michael Pelliccio, an off-duty police officer who was there as a spectator, according to Mrs. Ricci’s lawyer, Paul Pickelle.

Mrs. Ricci said Pelliccio ridiculed her and tried to trip her twice before she slapped him.

She pleaded guilty to harassment and received a conditional discharge, which means she has no criminal record.

None of this apparently was known to her fellow contestants last weekend.

To enter, a woman must be living with her husband, over 21 and have her husband’s support in the contest.

``We don’t do FBI checks on the ladies,″ Mrs. Strassburg said.

Mrs. Ricci is now studying communications at Westchester Community College and wants to become a writer-director.

She has a bit part in an upcoming film, ``Nothing to Lose″ and is working on a screenplay about her troubles in Mount Vernon.

And she plans to make another run for Mrs. New York State.

``I have to tone myself up,″ she said, ``but I’m going to do it.″