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A Very Sad Final Farewell to Our Endearing & Unforgettable Client of Nearly 35 Years John Nicosia

One of the first Supported Living clients in the state of California, John Nicosia started with Toward Maximum Independence (TMI), a nonprofit serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in 1988. John’s smile was infectious and could brighten any room. He overcame a lot of challenges in his life and learned to make it very clear what he wanted and to never give up fighting for those things in order to live his life to the fullest.

John enjoyed going to Sea World, but hated getting wet! He would go every day of the week and twice on Sunday if he could. He loved having pizza at Mama Stella’s restaurant and ending every Sea World trip with an ice cream. He also enjoyed listening to music and watching TV. John was always up for new adventures and loved being out and about meeting new people. He was a regular and welcoming presence at TMI events. John also loved going to musicals, concerts, Disneyland, and the San Diego Zoo. John’s family lives in Pennsylvania, but before the pandemic he would try and visit them every year or so.

John at home as a young man
John at home as a young man

“John was like a sour patch kid, he could be sweet one moment and then sour the next,” said TMI Personal Attendant Barbara Melendez. “He had a mind of his own and spoke up when he saw fit. He never met a stranger and would tell people that he met ‘I am John Nicosia, I live in San Diego and I will see you next week.’”

According to Barbara, John could make just about anyone laugh even on his worst day. Sometimes, he would have a bad moment and then apologize for his behavior, and he would truly mean it. He would always say "Ok, I will change my attitude" and nine times out of ten he would.

John loved new clothes, but he especially liked his hats, new shoes, and watches. He also loved cologne and smelling good, but hated shaving and getting a haircut. John enjoyed pizza and Jack in the Box, but the most important food for him was cookies. He would sneak in the kitchen at night to eat cookies at least until he got caught.

“John touched our hearts in a way that will never be forgotten because he loved everyone unconditionally,” added Barbara.
We will greatly miss this smile
We will greatly miss this smile

“John won me over the moment I met him,” said TMI Case Manager Shantel Rhode. “No one could go up against John when he was being stubborn. He would pout his lip and raise a fist as if to tell you ‘not on my watch’ then immediately follow up with the most heartwarming smile that you ever did see which could make anyone forget about his stubborn streak. John’s personality wasn’t for the weak. He was strong, he was loud, and I absolutely adored him for these traits. He always greeted me with a ‘hello sweetheart’ and a big hug. Those moments as a Case Manager are what make the job worth it; the genuine smiles and hugs that your clients give you. He sweet talked me into sharing every one of my snacks and even suckered me into buying him treats on a regular basis. I couldn’t say no to Mr. Nicosia. Every time I departed, he would blow me a kiss and say ‘see ya next time, honey.’ I will forever miss sharing my snacks, seeing his smile, and embracing him. So, see ya later, honey, until we meet again.”

We will miss John very much. Our condolences to John’s family, his TMI staff (including his former TMI roommate of more than 20 years Kathy Sorenson), and all who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace.

(Thank you to our wonderful employees Jenna Plante, Shantel Rhode and Barbara Melendez for contributing to this story.)

The Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Supported Living program assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently or with paid support in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Personalized supports are dictated by a person’s needs. We provide up to 24 hours a day of one-on-one support designed to meet individual needs.


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.


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