Caring, passionate, kind, intelligent, with an amazing sense of humor
When friends and family talk about Nick, they speak of him with great fondness and bright smiles. He actively cared about everyone he met. Although he was only 23 when he died, he left an ongoing legacy with his extraordinary and genuine kindness, infectious humor, and loving heart.
Nick was the youngest of five boys. His brothers spoke of his energy, his honest conversations with them, how he would clown around and make people laugh, or show his interest and curiosity by taking things apart like a router or a gaming console just to see how it worked. His brother Tom commented on how he was always playing with fire and ended up becoming a volunteer firefighter. He saw that as an oxymoron because he played with fire, not fought it, but as Tom said “He was fascinated with fire and used that energy to help others… I always had an admiration for that.”
As a child, he was always inquisitive, energetic, and caring. One fond memory his mother shared of his childhood was regarding his hermit crabs. He decided that his hermit crabs needed to have a birthday party. He managed to involve the whole household. His grandmother stopped by with ice cream, his mother did the cake, his father blew-up balloons, and he even invited the neighbors. Along with his siblings, they all partied and sang Happy Birthday to these creatures.
He proudly graduated high school including some honors courses with a 4.0 despite his ADHD. He played lacrosse and did ROTC during this time as well. As Nick got older, he worked between two fire stations for nine years and served time in the Air Force.
Nick was passionate about people’s rights, mental disorders (because of his own battles), and telling others his story of addiction when he felt it was needed. He did some outreach such as going to his old high school and speaking during health class. He coordinated a check-in system where his friends checked in with each other. Nick kept a smile on his face while fighting his own addiction and mental disorders yet made sure that everyone he came in contact with was doing well even if he wasn’t.
It has been three years since his passing, and his family is still getting messages from people sharing their stories of how he touched their lives or one of their family members’ lives. This was confirmed to his mother by the number of loved ones of all ages who attended his service. The funeral director got out folding chairs for the young people standing in the parking lot waiting to get in. He said he stopped counting heads at 600. As each went through the line, Nick’s mother can only remember feeling the heat on them as they hugged her and told their story of how Nick had been an important part of their life.
Nick’s parents are more compassionate for those battling addiction and mental health issues now. Nick’s mother has become an advocate, and her goal is to be a social worker to touch the lives of people, as Nick did. She hopes that he would be proud of her.
Nick’s mother, Erleen Golden, provided the information for this narrative.
April 22, 1996-August 31, 2019-Age 23
Portrait Artist: Theresa Clower
Narrative Writer: Lynn McKnight