By Kevin Redding
After her son was fatally struck by an SUV earlier this year, Kim Signore of Miller Place feared 14-year-old Nico would be forgotten. But a new street sign on the block where the budding lacrosse star grew up will help preserve his memory forever.
The Signores huddled together alongside family, friends and elected officials Oct. 6 during an unveiling of the sign labeled Nico’s Way. The dedication was done on the corner of Miller Place Road and Islander Court in Miller Place for the boy who died riding his bike on a busy intersection on Route 25A in February. The street sign, which stands only a few houses down from the Signore residence, was installed by the Town of Brookhaven at the request of members of the family.
“This block is where it all began for Nico,” the boy’s older brother, Vincent Jr., said before the unveiling. “Nico left us too soon, but in the little time he was here on this Earth he taught us how to live life to the fullest. He will never be forgotten. We hope that this street serves as a compass when you are lost and can’t find your way.”
Kathleen Perry, a longtime friend of the Signore family, agrees the dedication is a wonderful way to help Nico live on.
“Nico just lit up this block,” Perry said, remembering the 14-year-old as the most kindhearted boy she’d met. “I think this is a great thing for the town to do.”
Nico’s aunt, Mary Alipo, said although the family will never be the same after the tragedy, townwide support is helping with the healing process.
“He was such an amazing individual and to see this many people who cared about him coming forward and serving as a support group is just incredible,” Alipo said.
Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) commended the Miller Place community for rallying around the Signores in their time of need.
“Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms to the Signores — I know you will forever keep Nico’s memory in your embrace,” Bonner said to the large crowd, including Miller Place school district faculty, members of Nico’s lacrosse team and neighbors, as well as Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “You have all been there to prop them up, hug them when they needed it and dry their tears. This is a wonderful community.”
An emotional Kim Signore held back tears as she thanked everyone in attendance.
“You guys are amazing,” she said.
Upon losing Nico, the mother’s greatest fear was that, over time, her son’s legacy would disappear.
“This is a way to always remember him because he was such a good kid — a beautiful boy inside and out,” she said. She laughed recalling the impromptu dance sessions to Frank Sinatra songs that Nico often initiated. “He would come downstairs in his lacrosse shorts, and no shirt and say, ‘Let’s dance, ma.’ He was a good boy. He loved this community. He loved everybody.”
The idea for a street sign initially came from Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, and was carried through by Nico’s aunt and uncle, Kelly and Charles Butruch, who were in contact with Romaine and Bonner for most of the year. As Brookhaven policy requires a six-month window between a person’s death and public memorialization, a resolution for Nico’s Way was approved at the end of August.
Vincent Signore hopes that the sign will serve as not only a memorialization of his son but as a reminder to drivers to be more careful.
“I would like for people to be more aware of their surroundings when they’re driving and not be distracted,” he said.
Since Nico’s death at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, there have been significant changes to the location to ensure better safety for pedestrians and drivers alike.
Around what would have been Nico’s 15th birthday in April, the road saw the implementation of a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians and bicyclists are given the go-ahead to get to the other side. No turn on red signs were also added.
“It’s bittersweet,” Kelly Butruch said. “A year ago, did I think we would be here today? No, and I wish we didn’t have to be, but it’s the best way to memorialize him.”
Michael Lombardi, a Miller Place 10th grader
and lacrosse player, remembers his friend as an amazing person on and off the field.
A scholarship fund for Miller Place seniors who show exemplary spirit, courage and love of community was given out to two students this past May. The family intends to continue the fund throughout the future.
As the Signores and community members gathered under the sign, they shared stories of the highly regarded student-athlete.
“Nico was astounding,” Lombardi said. “He had a great personality — he was funny. He was always nice to everybody and a great player. Whenever we needed a goalie, he stepped up. He’s greatly missed.”
Another of Nico’s former teammates, Kevin Thompson, said his friend will never be forgotten.
“Whenever you pass the sign here and look at it, we’ll think of him,” he said.