Valley Streamer Nicholas Schiano turned 98 on Jan. 29. Two days later, the World War II veteran received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
While volunteers from Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church, where he’s a parishioner, visit him, along with neighbor Lissa Nelson, an employee health manager at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, his son, Tom, reported that his father is eager to get out of his Rockaway Parkway home and back to his morning ritual of three-mile walks with friends through Hendrickson Park and breakfast afterward at Mitchell’s Restaurant.
Now hard of hearing, Schiano spoke through his son, who lives in Texas. “When the coronavirus hit, we forced him to knock that off and stay home,” Tom said of his father’s social habits. “He’s really regretted that he hasn’t been able to do that. Some of his friends continue to call him, which is very nice.”
Schiano has lived in Valley Stream for 67 years, since he moved there from his native Brooklyn. Before that, in 1943, he joined the Army and trained as a medic at Walter Reed General Hospital, serving at a field hospital in Britain during World War II. The grave injuries he witnessed would affect him deeply.
“He doesn’t like to talk about it much,” Tom said. “He saw a lot of awful things.”
As the war in Europe ended, although he was still a medic, Schiano went through combat training to prepare for the close-quarters fighting in the Pacific, but was fortunate enough never to have to use it. The fighting had ceased there as well.
Schiano recalled boarding the Queen Mary, a British ocean liner converted into a troop transport, headed to New York Harbor. As one of the first groups of soldiers to return home, he was greeted with great fanfare. He returned to Walter Reed to finish out his service, helping to convey injured soldiers home via train.
In 1954, Nicholas and Helen moved to the Valley Stream home that they would share until her death in 2017, and where he still resides and cooks his own meals. They had two children together, Karen and Tom, and during his working years, Schiano managed an asphalt paving company in Deer Park.
Tom referred to his father as “a straight arrow,” self-assured and religious, who frequently attended services at Holy Name before the pandemic.
In recent years, Nelson said she has grown close to her neighbor, and despite long hours at LIJ, has made it a habit to check on him. “He’s just a beautiful human being,” she said, and described him as “Valley Stream’s pride and joy.”
“She has been truly terrific person for him,” Tom said, noting that his father appreciates the help she has given him.
Schiano was originally scheduled to receive his vaccine on his birthday, but cold weather forced an early closure at the state vaccination site at Jones Beach. His son said he regretted not being able to celebrate with his walking friends from the daily strolls at Hendrickson
Although he misses them, Tom said, with the end of the pandemic in sight, the first thing Schiano looks forward to doing is traveling to Texas and visiting his first great-grandson, who at 7 months old has yet to live in a world without pandemic.