This story is part of Loved and Lost, a statewide media collaboration working to celebrate the life of every New Jersey resident who died of COVID-19. To learn more and submit a loved one's name to be profiled, visit lovedandlostnj.com.
Nicholas Gismondi, a Westfield man most remembered for his vibrant personality, has drawn accolades for his community contributions.
Nick Gismondi died from coronavirus on April 17, five days after his 65th birthday and 12 days past the death of his brother, Ralph, who also died from COVID-19. A funeral is tentatively scheduled for April 2021 on the one-year anniversary of his passing, but his Westfield neighbors gave him an apt sendoff shortly after he died, his wife, Mary Jane Gismondi, said.
Bishop Michael Saporito, then of St. Helen’s Church in Westfield, conducted a private prayer service for the family. Mary Jane Gismondi let friends know she would drive down her street with her husband on the way to the funeral home, and neighbors could sit outside and raise a glass to him.
On turning onto her street, she witnessed bagpipes playing, along with neighbors and friends, who had lined the street with flags, photos, signs and banners honoring Nick Gismondi.
“People we didn’t even know came out,” said Mary Jane Gismondi. “It was incredibly moving. A girl on our street often had a lemonade stand set up, and Nick would always buy lemonade from her when she did. On that day, she’d set up her lemonade stand outside, with a glass of lemonade on it for him.”
The Gismondis moved to Westfield from Long Island more than 30 years ago, and raised their three sons — Chris, Nick and Mike.
Born in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, Nick Gismondi had been a standout baseball player at McClancy High School and landed a spot on the roster of the team at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where he studied accounting.
When he came to Westfield, he shared his love for America’s pastime with his community in Union County.
“A champion of Westfield baseball, avid supporter of Westfield athletics and member of the Westfield Boosters Hall of Fame, he was instrumental in bringing the Gumbert Park field house to fruition, and his legacy lives on in every Westfield child that picks up a ball and bat,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle.
Nick Gismondi served for multiple years as the president of Westfield’s Baseball League and was inducted into the Westfield Boosters Association Hall of Fame.
“That's the second Hall of Fame he belongs to, by the way, as he was inducted as well into the McClancy High School Hall of Fame,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, who at his press briefings has been honoring New Jersey residents lost to coronavirus.
A Yankees fan and Giants season ticket holder, Nick Gismondi considered himself the “sous-chef” to his friend Claude Fusco at his tailgate grill.
“When you met Nick, you liked him,” Fusco said. “And when you got to know him, you loved him. He was warm and genuine, and friends with everyone.”
Bill Ludlum met Nick Gismondi nearly 30 years ago when their sons played baseball together. Over the years, they developed an easy friendship; their families vacationed together, and they enjoyed golf outings and football games.
“He was a fun-loving, thoughtful guy who people would gravitate to,” Ludlum said. “I knew if I needed him, he’d drop anything. You don’t have many people like Nick. I miss him so much.”