PATERSON, NJ - A memorial erected on what is left of an iconic Paterson building to honor the life of hero Paterson Firefighter John Nicosia has been stolen, TAPinto Paterson has learned. 

Nicosia lost his life in a 1991 fire that destroyed the old Meyers Brothers Department Store on Main Street. Firefighter Nicosia’s is one of 30 line of duty deaths Paterson’s storied fire department has endured.

Telling TAPinto Paterson that the discovery was made Tuesday when several firefighters went to the location as part of early stage plans for an annual memorial service, Kyle Hughes, President, FMBA Local 2, said that he was both “outraged and heartbroken" to find the "disgusting act of vandalism, thievery, and ignorance.”

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Though he never served alongside Nicosia, Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott said that his legacy still looms large in firehouses across the city, and beyond. As a young firefighter, McDermott recalled, his captain would often stop by the memorial and share the story of that tragic incident. Meyers Brothers’ ultimate demise, and with it the loss of Nicosia, is an “intrinsic” piece of Paterson history and one that McDermott has continued to share throughout his career.

“We preserve the memory of those that die in the line of duty as a learning experience, and as a testament of the giving nature of firefighters that are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” McDermott said, calling the site a “solemn place.”

Hughes would go on to say that he had every confidence that the men and women of the Paterson Police Department will “find and prosecute the responsible party,” and offered a vow that his union “won’t hold back from pushing for the maximum penalty,” just as they did following a 1998 vandalism incident. 

A career law enforcement officer, in his role as Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale now also oversees the Paterson Fire Department and has waxed poetically more than once about his tremendous respect for the profession. Without prompting, Speziale lamented that the word “hero” is too often used to describe someone who can sink a putt or make a movie.

“It is confused with a yearning for power and media adulation,” he said, adding that he believes it should be reserved for those that perform their duty day in and day out with “unsung valor.”

“That’s what John did.”

Surmising what the person or persons responsible for the theft may have in mind for the brass memorial, a disgusted Speziale said they are “turning Firefighter Nicosia’s heroism into a piece of scrap.”

Backing up Hughes’ promise to bring the full power of the law down on the culprit Speziale assured that he’s not going to let that happen.

“Not on my watch.”

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