LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The mother of 20-year-old USC student Nick Fagnano, who passed away Sunday after being struck by lightning at Venice Beach, has written a touching obituary for her son.
Fagnano was one of 13 victims of the lightning strikes at Venice Beach, and his case marked the only fatality.
Fagnano’s uncle, Dennis Shanahan, shared the obituary, and said that Nick led “…a life lived in daily kindness to everyone he encountered.”
The obituary for Nick, written by his mother, Mary, reads as follows:
“Taken to heaven by a flash in a cloud, this beautiful young man, who radiated joy, kindness, humor and love touched the lives of everyone he encountered. He had a maturity and wisdom that was beyond his years, yet an innocence of spirit that was evident from kindergarten all the way into his adult life.
He never lost a friend, in fact, he couldn’t have too many of them and he knew how to make each one of them feel special. One day he’d be hiking in the Hollywood Hills with his best friend from pre-school, the next he’d be getting together with friends from his High School alma mater, Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks, at their regular weekend gathering spot.
Nick could impersonate almost anyone in the most endearing way and, in doing so, have everyone laughing uncontrollably. He’d break into full body dances his long arms outstretched, his legs and hips going in all directions, his smile would go sideways and his eyes would squint as if to say—“I’m the coolest crazy nerd on the planet! And, who cares? I’m lovin’ life!”
Nick’s priorities in life were faith, family and friends and he kept himself constantly busy pursuing his passions. From the time he was four years old, Nick loved baseball. He wore just about every team jersey from T-ball through Wilshire baseball league as well as City of Angels baseball league. But the jersey he was most proud to wear was that of the Knights of Notre Dame High School because it meant he was part of a very special group of young men and their families who thought the world of Nick whether he could throw a fast ball over the plate or not. Nick was also true to Dodger Blue and knew every team detail of which he and his Dad, Jay, would talk incessantly pre, during, post and in the best of years…playoff seasons.
Nick had to work harder than many of his friends to get good grades. Reading was never easy but he overcame this challenge by dedicating himself to long hours of studying. He found mentors in some of his favorite teachers, and he knew when to ask for extra help from his parents or his tutor, Josh, who helped him throughout high school. Nick’s awareness of what it took to be successful came through his ability to bring together a team to get things accomplished.
After high school Nick wanted to stay in the game a little longer and he joined some of his former Notre Dame teammates on the Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros. After his first year, Nick was ready to hang up his glove to focus on achieving the grades it would take to get admitted to USC where he wanted to study Real Estate and Urban Development. He also got his first real job working at an Isla Vista smoothie shop, Blenders in the Grass. He said he absolutely loved this job because he could give a smile to everyone who walked in the door and make them happy.
Nick was fascinated by the development going on in downtown Los Angeles which prompted him to leave Santa Barbara City College at the end of his 3rd semester and move into the downtown Los Angeles loft that he had encouraged his empty-nester parents to move into a year earlier. He was finishing his credits for his sophomore year at Santa Monica City College when he applied to USC’s Price School of Public Policy and was ecstatic when the thick envelope arrived in the mail this May fulfilling a new dream.
Nick was also excited to land a job with the opening group of employees at Ace Hotel where he worked at Upstairs, the rooftop bar, which looked across at the windows of the loft he and his parents were living in at the Eastern Columbia Building. Again he endeared himself to a new support group of co-workers—of which Nick was the youngest. He often commented that bar work was much harder than smoothie work but he persevered until he gave notice to take a few weeks off to go to Maui with his parents and their friends and then to get ready to start classes at USC.
On Maui, Nick fulfilled another life-long dream…surfing with Jay who had regaled him with his own high school stories about growing up in Hermosa Beach and surfing every morning before school. Nick had done a bit of surfing in Santa Barbara and described the experience as the best feeling in the world. He’d just bought his first surfboard, but hadn’t taken it to Venice on July 27th. Instead, he was just hanging out on the beach with two friends from high school talking about girls and how goofy parents can be sometimes.
Nick was the child that every parent could hope for. Throughout his life Nick also forged incredibly close non-parental friendships with adults that showed him different perspectives on life and in these relationships both Nick and his “grown-up” friends gave so much to each other. Nick also had such a strong sense of what is right and was always careful when asking his parents for something he needed whether it was money or something that took money. He never took things for granted and he never forgot to show appreciation.
Favorite everyday times for Nick and his parents were when they were together at home as a family. Every evening the three of them spent together, Jay cooked dinner and they sat at the dining table. Every dinner started by holding hands saying grace and every dinner usually involved talking about something funny that happened that day. Another special time of day would come when Nick came home from school and Nick’s mom, Mary and Jay working in their home offices could hear Nick playing the guitar…. or even the drums. Every chapter of Nick’s life was equally as rewarding to his parents as the one that had come before.
Extending beyond his parents, Nick had incredibly close family ties. His Nana (Jay’s mom) was a buddy—they played golf together since Nick was 6 years old playing courses from Orlando, FL to Whistler, CN. Nick also had a special bond with his Uncle Dennis (Mary’s brother). Dennis, the youngest of 6 (with an 8 year gap between him and the second to the youngest) and Nick, an only child, were like the brothers each never had. They shared the same taste in music and baseball going to Warped Tours and A’s games together in the summer and snowboarding in Tahoe in the winter. Every family bond had its unique qualities for Nick and he had treasured cousins, aunts and uncles in Southern and Northern California. Every summer he would venture on his own to spend time with Mary’s extended family and his grandma who shared with him her love of books, spirituality and baseball. Both his grandmothers were widows—their husbands, Dennis Shanahan and Nicholas Fagnano, passed away the same week in 1989, but Nick did have a special relationship with Poppa Vince, Mary’s stepfather, who passed away in 2013.
There’s one gift Nick had that he never had to work for. He was born with this gift and it was evident in his eyes from the time he was a baby—it was his gift of faith…and generosity. When he was little, and even the week he passed away, he would give something to the homeless man and from the time he was a little boy he couldn’t walk past a guy playing guitar on the street without putting something in his case. His faith wasn’t just something he was taught, it was something that was part of his DNA and it’s what strengthens his loved ones in this difficult time. Nick’s love of God and trust that Jesus was always his source of strength and guidance, was the perspective from which he made life’s most important decisions and in doing so, he made this world a better place.
Through his faith, Nick connected with people on a spiritual level whether it was his teachers at St. Brendan Grade School; principal Sister Maureen O’Connor, and pastor Monsignor Terry Fleming or his activities in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes led by Notre Dame Knights baseball coach, Tom Dill. In Isla Vista, Nick regularly attended Sunday mass at St. Mark’s the Newman Center parish where he re-connected with Father John Love who had once been his pastor at St. Brendan. All through grade school, he’d been an altar server and, on occasion, even when home from college, he wasn’t embarrassed to fill in if none of the younger ones showed up to do the job. The day Nick died, he had attended 8 a.m. mass at St. Brendan Church with his parents.
A light as bright as Nick’s cannot be extinguished. A flash of lightning and dark clouds give way to fingers of sunlight streaming down from heaven. Those fingers reach around our hands and our hearts and lift us upward toward a brighter future for all impacted by this terrible tragedy. While the immediate family cannot fathom their loss of Nick, those around the world who are touched by Nick’s life will know that there is great hope for our young men and women to show us all a better world.
Nick is survived by his parents Mary and Jay Fagnano, grandmothers Nancy Fagnano and Katherine Shanahan-Poettgen, aunt Christine Fagnano, cousins Lindsey and Sydney Fagnano, uncle Mark Fagnano, cousin Tony Fagnano, aunt and uncle Patty Shanahan-Williams and Keith Williams and cousins Kaya and Teah Williams, uncle and aunt Jim Shanahan and Katie Curry-Shanahan, uncle and aunt John Shanahan and Teresa Shanahan, cousins, Andrew, Michaela, Peter, Joseph and Grace Shanahan, Uncle and Aunt Dan Shanahan and Felicia Hernandez-Shanahan and cousins Danielle, Katie and Matthew Shanahan, and his Uncle Dennis Shanahan.
A scholarship fund for an undergraduate transfer student to the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy based on merit and character has been established in Nick’s name. Donations may also be made to the St. Brendan School Building Fund.”
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