About Nick and The Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation
Nick was a young man of exceptional character, joy for life and deep faith.
To know about the the Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation, you first have to know about Nick. He was a friend to all he met, a dedicated student with determined perseverance, a great sense of humor, and the best son any parent could hope for. He loved playing baseball from the age of four all the way through junior college. His life was full of promise as he was weeks away from entering his dream school, USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy, where he was excited to focus his studies on Real Estate and Urban Development and pursue a career in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, of which he was a passionate advocate. He was thrilled when his parents, Mary and Jay, decided to move into a DTLA loft. Mary and Jay will forever treasure every day they were able to share in the life of this exceptional young man, their only child, who lit up any room he walked into with his sparkle and his pure joy of life.
Nick meant so much to so many people whether he first befriended them at the age of three years-old at Wagon Wheel Preschool, or friends he continued to gather as he made his way through life at St. Brendan Grade School, Notre Dame High School, Santa Barbara City College, and Santa Monica City College. Nick's circle included those from 8 to 80 years-old, be they senior parishioners of St. Brendan Catholic Church in Los Angeles or little ones who looked up to him (literally--as Nick was an athletic 6' 2" in stature). He was just as close to some of his friends' parents as he was to their children. Nick's spirituality was always an important part of his life and he took it to college where he attended Sunday mass at St. Mark's Newman Center in Santa Barbara and frequently shared his faith with friends. Teammates formed another circle of deep friendships developed in every baseball league and team Nick played on-- Wilshire Baseball, City of Angels, Notre Dame High School Knights of Sherman Oaks, and Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros. More bonds formed when he got his first job at Blenders in the Grass in Isla Vista followed by Ace Hotel when he moved back to LA. Nick had very few acquaintances...rather if you met Nick, you became his friend and you knew there was a genuine love that came with that friendship. Nick made no distinction among age, background, culture, economics, lifestyle or race...everyone was simply, and most importantly, a friend--you were someone Nick cared about. If you were lucky enough to be family with Nick, the love & affection he showed was evident from the time he was a baby and continued throughout those precious 20-years of his life.
Nick's care for others extended to those on the margins like Michael, a wheelchair-bound diabetic with one leg and a catheter, who would engage passers-by for spare change at the corner of 9th & Broadway in front of the building where Nick lived with his parents. Nick showed Michael kindness not only through his generosity by buying him something to eat but he would engage Michael in conversation almost every day.
Nick had a zest for life. This was well-known among his friends who accompanied him to concerts and music festivals where he was famous for his crowd-surfing. He loved rollercoasters and bungie-jumping, surfing and snowboarding, hiking and contemplating. He left us poetry and essays that took us deep into his thoughts, including the essay entitled The Reality of Heaven from which the Foundation gets its name. Nick's humility was sometimes at odds with his desire to excel in life, yet it was one of his most known qualities. He even got a tattoo of the Chinese character for "confidence" on the inside of his left arm--which first became (amusingly) known to Mary during Mother's Day brunch when Nick stretched his arms behind his head and his T-shirt sleeve stretched upward just enough to reveal the ink. But his humbleness also came from his obliviousness to how charming and good-looking he was.
Nick connected with people through humor and he had a way of maintaining friendships with diverse groups and always seeking to make others feel good about themselves. He was known for his goofy dances, infectious laugh, and spot-on impersonations of parents, teachers, coaches and friends (all expressed in the most endearing way).
Stories of Nick's gratitude include the time he brought flowers to his childhood friend's mom after she gave him a gift as well as the fact that whenever he needed something he would practically apologize to his parents that he was asking for it and then he would be profusely grateful upon receiving it. The note he wrote to his nanny when she gave him $500 for his high school graduation expressed the extent of all he was grateful to her for over the 14 years she cared for him.
Then there was Nick's ability to have perspective. Anyone who spent quality time with Nick knew he would listen to what they were wrestling with and whether or not he had a solution to offer, he would meet them where they were, accept what they were dealing with, and never be judgmental. Sometimes he simply offered to pray with them and for them.
For Nick, honesty was more that being truthful, it was the way he lived his life, true to himself, his values, his desire to earn respect from others and to be responsible for the commitments and choices he made. That integrity extended into his sense of teamwork, where being part of a team was integral to Nick's self-identity, particularly as it related to his love of sports--baseball, basketball, and soccer-- which he narrowed down to baseball by the time he was 14. Teamwork also came into play with Nick's sense of family (he was upset by any type of disagreement), he was loyal to his friends and wanted everyone to get along, and he consistently volunteered at Christmas for St. Brendan's adopt-a-family toy drive where he'd start in November on the planning team and work right up through the week before Christmas wrapping gifts and ultimately handing them out to families who otherwise couldn't afford this luxury.
Nick's life was taken on a sparkling Sunday afternoon, July 27, 2014, shortly before 3 p.m. when the Venice Beach sun was interrupted by a single cloud that delivered a rare and unexpected lighting strike just minutes after Nick entered the ocean to rinse off the sand after spending a relaxing day sitting on the beach with two friends from high school. The odds of this lightning strike on that day in that location were 1 in 750,000,000 according to experts who track this kind of thing. There was a splatter of tears from heaven and within moments the sun reappeared.
Nick's parents formed the The Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation to keep Nick's light shining just as the sun came back out so quickly that day. Nick, too, shines on. The Foundation provides a way for all who knew Nick, and for those who never met him, but are inspired by his story, to keep his positive energy having an impact in the world.