(LOCATED.) Veteran John Joseph Nicolazzi, Missing Since About 1989, Possibly the 1990’s

UPDATE (October 31, 2021):

#teamwork #CaseClosed

My father’s second cousin, John Nicolazzi, went missing in 1989. My dad never knew him.

The link between my dad and his second cousin was through my dad’s grandmother, who was abandoned on a porch in Italy and later adopted. Through DNA, I discovered who her bio family was. That was no easy task, because her line is fully endogamous. AND John Nicolazzi shared no provable links to the family, as his parents too were actually not even from the line they thought they were from (due to an immense amount of adoptions and illegitimate children born to unknown fathers in the line). So, I really had to trace back the family pretty far to even know anything about my dad’s great grandmother. And you can’t trace it back without even knowing her line… which is why I had to rely on DNA to help. However, all of the DNA matches for her side are all related to each other due to endogamy… there was not much separation at all.

Anyway, on my DNA test results later appeared 2 women who unbeknownst to me at the time were adopted. I offered to help them search for their parents. I do that all the time, as I love genealogy and want to help people find their family. Usually, I just find the family and it’s an easy task… it’s no big deal. I had no idea what their parents’ names were, just like many adoption cases. (When there are names, the case is usually really easy.) After a day or two, I realized their father was a man named John Nicolazzi. (I was able to find this out because John only had one brother, who had already been deceased, and the Nicolazzi line was the one I was led to, even though there was no clear relation to my family on paper– as their ancestors were also adopted and illegitimate). Both of my adopted cousins had different mothers. I found the one mother within a few days or so (she was deceased) and reunited my one cousin with her bio siblings & living grandmother from her mother’s side.

As for the missing link, John Nicolazzi, I went to go search for him– whether he was deceased or alive. There are only a few people he could have been around his age on paper trails. I had it narrowed down to two men. The one man wanted it to be him, surprisingly, but it was not. And so I figured that left me with one other person, a John Nicolazzi from Syracuse, NY. I took a ton of notes and called all of his phone numbers last year, but all of the numbers were disconnected because he was not alive. (That I had already known, that he had passed away, but I lacked ‘proof’ that this was OUR John Nicolazzi.) What threw off the search was that someone in “his family” told me that I already contacted someone in “the family” and asked me to stop. She confirmed the DOB of the John Nicolazzi in Syracuse, NY was the same DOB as her brother. I had a different story on the family tree I made for him. So I thought she may have just been saying that. She did, in fact, have a brother named John Nicolazzi, but he was a different one… yet she told me the DOB of the Syracuse guy was her brother– it was not. I felt like I could no longer contact anyone who showed up in relation to the Syracuse John because once someone says something like that to you and asks you to “stop contacting family”, you kind of have to grow leery and stop the search. But I still wanted to find him. So I took it to social media, as I feared making any more calls.

WYN Missing (another missing person activism company) worked with me and she too thought that was him. I explained the sister told me not to contact, and she said I should contact the # shown on the search again. (That # was disconnected, as it belonged to John, who had passed away.) I already had a whole list of parcel histories of homes he owned with a bunch of tenants’ names. I decided to reach out to a random tenant in one of his OLD homes, even though I know he had passed away (the people finders tell you that).

Surprisingly, the very first tenant I called (and there were several that I had #’s for but did not want to bother his contacts after someone asked me not to), answered. Mind you, I actually called her last year but didn’t reach her on her old #, before a family member told me not to contact anyone related to that John again. Again, that person was saying that, I believe because of the fact her brother really is a John Nicolazzi, but she didn’t want anything spread in his name. Sometimes this happens… even in provable cases. It is not OUR John’s sister, again.

Anyway, the lady who answered the phone, Hattie, was shocked that I called. She was praising God and saying how excited and happy she was to learn that his family was calling him, that he had SOMEONE.

Mind you, I am NO ONE to John. He did NOT know me. Anyone who does genealogy or helps missing people like I do knows that you end up getting to know that person without ever having interacted with them. She was just happy that ANYONE was talking to her about him. I explained that I am his second cousin 1x removed, and that my dad did not know him, but that I was calling on behalf of my cousins.

She explained that John talked about his daughters frequently and tried to find them countless times. This entire time he was searching for not only them but also his ex wife, his father, and his sister.

Why was he “missing”, then? What happened, you may ask???!!!! How did he become a “missing person”? This is where it gets tricky.

He had not seen his children since the 80’s and ONLY saw them as babies. He was not allowed to see them anymore, I believe maybe due to homelessness, not sure. But he wanted to, as the story goes. They were put up for adoption against his will.

Back in 1989, John J. Nicolazzi was homeless, jobless, living in his car in Brooklyn, NYC, NY, and was suffering from both drug abuse and mental illness. The entire family assumed he had died that year or maybe a couple years after, as they had stated there was just no way that he could have survived this long, with the odds stacked against him. And he totally went off the radar, not intentionally, according to Hattie. He was getting his lie in order.

He had moved from NYC to Syracuse and turned his life around, according to Hattie. He became a homeless person advocate and made that his “purpose”. He was not wealthy, yet he purchased a few empty homes nearby his home and allowed homeless people to live there indefinitely. He did not charge them a dime either. He helped Hattie, who was his best friend, by letting her live in one of his vacant homes, for the remainder of her life. She still resides in that home. She claims he saved her from a life of homelessness. They did not live together, but he lived further down the street. He had gotten sick in his last year of life with diabetes and allegedly was not taking his medicine, as the doctor wanted to amputate his foot, and he did not want to live that way. They promised each other to take care of each other until the day one of them died. She said that John never sought or expected anything from anyone and that he helped anyone he could without discrimination from the kindness of his heart. Hattie states that he was “the best person she ever knew” and that she misses him terribly.

The WNY Missing & Unidentified Persons founder was so happy and proud of John as I am too. He turned his life around to help others.

His high school yearbook photo points out that he loves helping people…. he had that trait since he was young. It also states that he can be seen looking at the girls…. and Hattie confirmed that he carried that through as well.

Anyway, John J. Nicolazzi passed away in 2016. Hattie stated she made sure that he had a proper burial and that “he was buried good”.

John’s father, who passed years prior, asked for John before he passed away and was upset that his son could not be found. He was “missing” from him too. John did not have a good relationship with his father, and he had allegedly suffered abuse. John’s cousins and sister / niece were the last people to see him in the family. He had come to their house around 1989 looking for a place to stay while homeless with 2 large dogs. The living arrangement could not work, with him having the dogs, and he would not leave his dogs behind. So he went to sleep in his car. And that’s the last time the family ever heard from him. They assumed he had passed that year, as stated earlier.

John later tried to contact his sister, according to Hattie. He had just gotten things situated in Syracuse after living out many hardships alone on the streets. And you have to remember, back then, the only popular “cell phones” were the ones that plugged into cars. Without being coherent and abusing drugs, it’s hard to say what was going on in his mind. But once he straightened out his life, he tried to find his sister and cousin. Sadly, he could not locate either. His sister had started developing dementia. By the 90’s, it got to the point she hardly could do much. She is still alive in her 90’s and vaguely remembers John, whom she called “John John”.

John lived so many years devastated that he could not find his family, especially his children. It would prove very difficult for him to find his children. Their names were changed after birth, and they were both closed adoptions. Adoption records did not open up in NY until after he had passed away. Sadly, the timing did not work out.

John passed away of hypothermia in his home. He had lived alone.

It is nice to have closure to a case like this. It did weigh on my mind, even though I, again, did not ever know him. And to emphasize, you get to know them in certain ways. Even the founder of WYN felt that way too. We both would have embraced him as family if he were alive. I hope that wherever he is now that he is looking down feeling some sort of closure– but at the very least he knows someone cares… that we care.

This is why I do what I do. I don’t want anyone’s legacy to be that they just died without a name or a story or family caring for them. To me, it’s one of the saddest things in the world. I did locate his ex girlfriend’s family, whom I discovered through a DNA test… and my cousin did get her adoption papers after I learned about John. Ironic twist? Well, she cannot be located by her family either. I have not really looked very hard for her yet because I was focusing on John first. And when I asked WNY Missing & Unidentified Persons for help to share his story, the founder did research that led to the same conclusion about John having lived in Syracuse. (I also had sent her the research I had done thus far to find out who he was and some details about his life, which I wrote about here: https://undergroundmysteries.com/…/john-joseph-nicolazzi/. She sent me the only one I could not fully eliminate. She urged me to call around his contacts again. I’m so glad I did and that this time I was not met with a gatekeeper who she too believed had been fibbing to me. I like things like this to be sorted out. It helps in so many ways: archiving, identity, closure, and more.

The original article is below:
John Joseph Nicolazzi went missing at some point in the late 1980’s or the 1990’s. The exact year he went missing is unknown. John was born sometime around 1946 in Hackensack, NJ or NYC, NY.  He was possibly mentally unwell and homeless (living out of his car in Brooklyn, NYC, NY) when he vanished.  He stopped visiting his daughter, who was a baby at the time, in 1989. His baby went to live with his cousin Nettie briefly until she was adopted by another family. Nettie supposedly never heard from John again. One of his relatives stated that he may have heard from John in 1990’s, but the memory was vague and uncertain.  As for a paper trail, I have not been able to find any information on John after 1989. 

Here is a timeline of events in John’s life, for anyone who is actively helping search for him, or for anyone who thinks they may have encountered him:

1946: John was born in Hackensack, NJ or NYC, NY to Amedio (“John”) Nicolazzi and Domenica (Cenci) Nicolazzi. John was rumored to have lived a very hard life as a child and endured abuse by his father. He lived with his parents until about 1969.
1964 / 1965: John finished school at Bergen County Technical Vocational School. (I am going to be circulating this article to his alumni groups.)
1969: He married Elsa Banola on October 5, 1969. A large fight broke out at the wedding, which may have led to him resenting some family members. At the time of his marriage, he was working at Sandy’s and was in the National Guard. I am not certain what day he joined the National Guard.
1975: John may have been living at 729 Maywood Ave in Maywood, NJ. I found that information in this news article. I checked online records parcels for Bergen County, and John has several parcel records for the mid-1970’s.
1976: On October 27, 1976, John was summoned in a civil action in the Superior Court of NJ. Here is a news article stating that Elsa was filing for divorce and/or possibly suing for property ownership.
1980: John had a girlfriend named Linda Rosemond. Linda was African American, and, according to several of his family members, there was racist judgement being placed upon John. He may have become bitter due to this factor, but that is just speculation. John and Linda were rumored to have been living together in Brooklyn, New York City, NY. John had a child with Linda in 1980 who was born in Brooklyn. It is unclear whether or not John was able to visit the baby in the beginning. This baby ended up being adopted (while she was a baby). It is suspected that John lost contact with Linda soon after their daughter was born. (The search for John was instigated by a DNA test that his daughter took; she had never known her father or even what his name is. I helped her find out who her father is by using DNA. (I’m a genealogist.) I am her blood cousin, and my father is John’s second cousin by blood. My father does not know John, because the DNA link is through my grandmother’s mother, who was an abandoned baby.)
1981: John’s mother, Domenica (Cenci) Nicolazzi passed away in 1981. John supposedly ceased contact with his father around this time.
1987: John had been living with another woman (his girlfriend) in Bronx, NYC, NY at this time. John’s girlfriend’s name was rumored to be Sarah Walker, who was born around 1965. “Sarah” had a baby with John. (A DNA test also confirmed this to be true, as I had another DNA match recently who I helped find her biological father. Once I had her upload her DNA to another ancestry site, it was clear she was a half-sister match to John’s previous daughter born in 1980.) These sisters share the same father but have different mothers. Sarah’s daughter was adopted as a baby as well. (John’s relatives state that they remember this baby being born, and that he would visit her every weekend. He apparently would cry at visits. It is said that the baby went to live with John’s cousin, Nettie (now deceased). The baby was then placed into foster care and was adopted shortly after. Sarah did not contact the agency that fostered their baby for visitation inquiries; her last contact was 1987. Supposedly, this child had two brothers, but it’s unclear if they were Sarah’s or John’s biological children. An adoption record stated that the brothers went to live with their paternal grandparents. I found out from a family member that that may have been a misprint in the state document. I am inclined to believe these brothers are children of Sarah, and that John is not their father.
1989: John was working at a welfare hotel sometime during this year. John went to his sister’s house to visit and was offered food, shelter, and clothing, but only under the condition that he was not allowed to bring his two large dogs, which were German Shepherds, as his sister already had a large dog there (a Doberman). John did not agree to this condition, so he did not stay. He did not want to abandon his dogs. It is uncertain what happened to his two dogs after that. John was rumored to have went to live in his car in the parking lot of a homeless shelter. He was said to be paranoid.
John was rumored to have been arrested in 1989.
2002: John’s father passed away, having not heard from John or having no idea of his whereabouts for many years.
2014: Elsa, John’s ex-wife, passed away.

John had dark brown hair. His eye color is unknown, but they appear to be brown in his high school photo. That is the only photo I could find of him. His family could not locate any other photos of him. His height and weight are unknown.

If you have any information on John’s whereabouts, please contact below, or you can call your local authorities and reference this post so they know who you are referring to. John is not filed as a missing person. He is known as an “unreported missing person.” I have already tried numerous times to report him missing.

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