BRATTLEBORO >> Photos and sincere words of Nicholas O. Widomski along with his artwork have resurfaced to try and get a glimpse of the impact he had on this community.
At 25 years old, Widomski's tragic death on Nov. 1 left some members of the community feeling as though a piece of Brattleboro was missing. Despite the hardship of loss, many have tried to move forward by living in ways they think Widomski would appreciate — with love and a smile.
"He genuinely fell in love with all his friends" said his mother, Lori McHugh. "And if you were close enough with him, you'd get a smile and hug that you'd never forget."
To most, he was "Nick," and it's challenging to pinpoint one person as his "best friend" because he was deeply cared for by all of the friends in his life and that feeling was sincerely reciprocated. He enjoyed a myriad of hobbies such as sketch art, juggling, swimming, grooving to live music, playing music, writing, slack lining, sleeping, Hacky Sack, Ultimate Frisbee and too many interests during the duration of his lifetime to include in this single tribute. But for most, they like to remember Nick for his smile, hugs and laugh.
"Nobody could laugh like him and making him laugh was the most rewarding thing because his laugh was big, his whole body gave into it, and it was loud," said his friend, Henry Mizrahi. "His laugh was the funniest thing I've ever heard and it was undeniable. You couldn't just hear Nick laughing and not laugh."
He was born in Bridgeport, Conn., on Jan. 20, 1990, the son of Lori Widomski McHugh and her husband Scott of Hamden and Ozie Mikel of Ledyard, Conn. According to his obituary, in addition to his mother, father and step-father, he is survived by brothers, Isaac Widomski of Shelton and Joshua Zuckerman of Hamden, Conn., sisters, Sara Zuckerman of Chicago, Leah Zuckerman of North Carolina and Honee Mikel of Connecticut, maternal grandparents, John and Joan Hackett Widomski of Virginia and several aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends in Brattleboro.
"We used to have mommy and Nicky days" said McHugh. Since Widomski was 4-years-old, he and his mother would use that name for their time together where they would go to the park, shop or do something new. "We never stopped calling them 'Mommy and Nicky days,' even when he was an adult."
While in Connecticut he tried a variety of sports such as baseball, basketball and golf. "He was good at everything he tried," said McHugh. He briefly attended Catholic school and would play games with his siblings and extended family. At 10 years old, Widomski and his mother moved to Brattleboro where he made a lasting impact.
"He's really good at bringing people up when they're down" said Michael Cloutier, Widomski's most recent roommate and friend since middle school. "I'm remembering the good times to help me get through this because he wouldn't want me to be so upset." Cloutier said his fondest memory of Widomski is one of the last ones he had from this past Halloween weekend. Cloutier forgot the key to his apartment. He slept outside of the door, until his dear friend woke him. "He (Widomski) opened up the door and saw me there, picked me up, brought me inside, tucked me in my bed and kissed me on my forehead. He looked at me and said 'You're such an important part of my life, I love you man.' It was such a great moment that I'll remember forever."
Cloutier described their continuing 13 years of friendship to be simple and fun along with Widomski's friend since about the fifth grade, Johnny Maloney. The boys would hang out at the Boys and Girls Club, out front of their school and at McHugh's business, "Bob's Full Belly Deli," that was located in the Harmony Parking Lot. When the deli closed down, the group was in need of a new location for after-school hours.
"We went down to the Co-op bridge and said, 'Well, I guess this is the spot to hang out at now, this is the spot" said Cloutier. "The Spot" was a named coined by Widomski, and it was the place where the six original "spot kids," would hang out nearly every day during their high school years. According to Cloutier they would entertain themselves there through Hacky Sack, stories, drawing and games such as "snaps" and "who's triangle is it?"
"Well I'm 25 and I guess I'm a spot kid for life. Spot kids never leave the spot," said Cloutier.
Widomski's mother moved back to Conneticut when he was about 22 years old and he attempted to move with her at one time, but after six month, he felt that he belonged in Vermont. Since then Widomski remained in the Green Mountain State.
"When I moved back to Connecticut, we didn't see each other as much as we would have liked, but every time we did ... it was fantastic," said McHugh, holding back tears.
He was employed as a cook at the Flat Street Pub in Brattleboro for several years and at Widomski's funeral, his boss, Steve Pardoe, told McHugh that her son was amazing and irreplaceable. "What he said brought tears to my eyes" said McHugh.
To his mother, he was always a happy kid that enjoyed his life.
Mizrahi said Widomski made you feel like whatever you were saying to him was important.
"When you were talking to him, he'd look you in the eyes, he'd wait for you to get to your point, and he'd know exactly what you were talking about. If he thought your ideas were cool, he'd say so, and if he thought you were wrong about something he'd say so." According to Mizrahi, Widomski was not afraid of disagreement because his criticism came from an understanding of life's importance.
"He was just very in tune with how everyone felt around him," said McHugh. "He always inspired people to be better." McHugh says she catches herself saying, "Be more like Nick, be more like Nick."
Widomski's family arranged visiting hours and a funeral service for Nick, where hundreds of people that loved him gathered at the chapel of the Spinelli-Ricciuti/Bednar-Osiecki Funeral Home in Connecticut. But for some in the Brattleboro area, they felt that further dedications were necessary prior to the funeral.
Saturday, Nov. 7, a group of Widomski's friends gathered at the Headroom Stages on Elliot Street where they held a potluck, shared stories about Nick on stage and admired his artwork throughout the building. For some the space was special because it was where they used to gather when it was known as the Tinder Box.
Afterwords, the members of the group followed each other down to "the spot," where they held each other close for a candle vigil. Some brought cans of Yoo-hoo, which was his favorite drink. Others lit incense and continued to reminisce.
"Not just the community, but the world itself lost the best human being, he was the best," said Cloutier. "He was so positive about everything, he had all this hope for humanity, he was the best."
Though Cloutier acknowledges his grief and loss, but he feels that it will not affect him negatively. "I haven't lost hope, if anything I'm going to place hope in humanity like he did," said Cloutier.
A person that would like to remain anonymous has stewarded a project to install a bench with a plaque in dedication to Widomski. In five days, $2,000 was raised at a GoFundMe page. Additional donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/8k8xy5br and any overflow of donations will go to the family.
Peter Elwell, Brattleboro's Town Manager, said he has been in contact with Widowski's friends and is scheduling a meeting to work out the placement and location of a bench.
According to McHugh, the sign-in book from the wake in Connecticut was full and for the first time the funeral home had to add pages to a funeral book. McHugh said the funeral home told her that 12 pages were filled with about 24 names written on each page. The parking lot of about 100 spots was filled and the streets were lined with cars, many with Vermont plates.
"The amount of people that came to say goodbye to Nicholas, was moving" said McHugh. "Just to see how many people that he touched."
Over the past couple of weeks there have been many people that McHugh said she would like to thank such as her family, some of whom drove long and far to support her. In addition, she wanted to thank Det. Michael Carrier, the EMTs and hospital staff that did everything they could to save Nick's life, the person who put together the donation page for the bench in honor of Nick, and the community in general.
"Stay strong together and use each other for emotional support," Cloutier suggested to friends and family that are grieving. "Aim to be happy and Wu Tang Clan is forever."