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Good Samaritan remembered for helping others

As family, friends and community members gathered Saturday to unveil the new name of the corner at 40th Avenue and Crescent Street, they remembered how its inspiration, late Dutch Kills resident Nicolas Nowillo, selflessly served the community both in life and death.

“He gave himself even at the end for the life of someone else,” said the Rev. Robert Johansson of the Evangel Church and School in Long Island City and Nowillo’s pastor in life.

Nowillo, an Ecuadorian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran who worked as a jeweler, died at age 65 on Sept. 3, 2008, when he tried to help someone in need. A neighbor of Nowillo’s was afraid of a man standing outside her vehicle and Nowillo decided to escort her from her car to her house. The now man, Eric Cherry, attacked Nowillo, causing him to suffer a heart attack. He died later that evening at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Cherry was charged with murder.

The case against Cherry, who is now 45, is still active and his next court date is Sept. 22, said the Queens district attorney’s office.

“In a city as large as ours, where people often run away from problems we see, Nicolas ran to it to help others,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who attended the ceremony with other elected officials.

The drive to get the corner co-named was the brainchild of Doris Nowillo Suda, Nowillo’s daughter, who was assisted by Community Board 1, the Dutch Kills Civic Association — of which Nowillo was a member — and former Councilman Eric Gioia. It was approved in December 2009.

“My parents would have been married 40 years [this year], it’s the way to Manhattan and we’ve lived at this corner 35 years,” Nowillo said about the choice of the street corner.

The naming of “Nicolas A. Nowillo Place” at 40th Avenue and Crescent Street was attended by Nowillo’s friends and family, but also members of the civic association and the East River Development Alliance, both of which Nowillo was involved in. Many spoke of his death and his accomplishments in life, but also of how he was an organ donor.

Johansson said Nowillo’s skin´╗┐ saved 50 lives. Some of those who received parts of his body were displayed on a quilt at the ceremony.

“He was unselfish to give parts of his body to those in need,” Johansson said.

State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the neighborhood has been improved by people like Nowillo.

“[He] made the Dutch Kills community safer, better and a more loving place,” Gianaris said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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