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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nashua man known as ‘The Philosopher’ remembered as ‘poster child for world peace’

NASHUA – During his senior year at Alvirne High School, John Carey reconnected by chance with a former classmate he’d known earlier as a rather quiet, introverted kid with poor grades who, at times, seemed suicidal.

“I called his name, he turned around, and that night, he, I and a bunch of friends went to his apartment and hung out most of the night,” said Carey, 21 and still a Hudson resident. ...

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NASHUA – During his senior year at Alvirne High School, John Carey reconnected by chance with a former classmate he’d known earlier as a rather quiet, introverted kid with poor grades who, at times, seemed suicidal.

“I called his name, he turned around, and that night, he, I and a bunch of friends went to his apartment and hung out most of the night,” said Carey, 21 and still a Hudson resident.

Nick Seminatore, who had left Alvirne but soon earned his GED, was an instant hit with Carey’s friends, often hosting all-night techno parties in his tiny bedroom or talking about “anything and everything,” Carey said, well into the wee hours.

But as much as Nicholas James Seminatore loved people enough to do almost anything he could for anyone in need, the young, talented writer and musician struggled with a sense of self-loathing so acute that, one friend said, he tried to kill himself five times over the past six months.

Tragically, Nick Seminatore’s sixth attempt, just after noontime last Wednesday, was successful. The 21-year-old, an only child who many in downtown Nashua might remember as the kid with the guitar who strummed on a whim anywhere from Railroad Square to City Hall, fashioned a noose out of his guitar strap and hanged himself from the railroad trestle known alternately as “Black Bridge” and the “Iron Bridge,” a friend named Mike said Saturday.

Mike, who asked that his last name not be used, has lost his appetite and barely slept, he said, since intuition sent him rushing to the place his friend called his “serenity spot,” stopping short and screaming “(expletive) no!” at the sight of Seminatore hanging limp in a shroud of fog over the Nashua River.

Mike called police, then ran to his friend’s side and cut the guitar strap with a tiny penknife. “He was still warm. I tried doing (CPR). Suddenly, Nick made a noise, like a cough, and I felt a faint heartbeat,” Mike said, replaying once again the dreadful, emotion-charged segment through his mind.

He heard sirens. With help on the way, Mike was hopeful for his friend. But just as medics secured themselves to ropes to shimmy down the snowy riverbank, Seminatore went limp.

“I thought I might have gotten him back,” Mike said. “But he died right there in my arms.”

Though often criticized as “failing,” or so fraught with obstacles to sufficient care for people with mental illness, the mental health system seems to have been there for Nick Seminatore, according to Mike’s and other friends’ accounts of his final six months.

Born in Nashua and raised in Hudson, Seminatore’s biological father left the picture early, friends said. They described his stepfather, from whom his mother, Linda Seminatore, is now estranged, in terms that indicate that the boy might have been better off without him in his life. Seminatore’s family members couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Introduced to philosophy by Carey a couple of years ago, Seminatore quickly immersed himself in the subject, earning the nickname “The Philosopher.” He grew so enamored with the concept, Carey said, that he began writing profusely, filling journal after journal with his deepest, inner thoughts and feelings.

“He was so excited to show us his writing,” Carey said. “We’d tell him what we thought, made suggestions, and before we knew it he’d written a book.”

Seminatore was just 19 when “Free Hand Philosophy,” in which he espouses the virtues of a socially just society and rails against corporate America and other power sources he views as detrimental to humanity, was published.

The pages of Free Hand Philosophy mirror precisely who Nick Seminatore was, friends said.

“You could ask Nick anything,” Jazmin Santiago said. “He always had the best answers. You could sit there and ask him things for four days, and he’d listen to you until you were done,” the 20-year-old woman added.

No subject was too personal or off-limits for Seminatore, 19-year-old Courtney Hurley said. “We’d just sit for hours … we talked a lot about his personal stuff, but he wasn’t complaining, just venting. Anytime I had a problem, I knew I could always get an answer from Nick. I don’t think he had a single enemy.”

Carey, meanwhile, said Seminatore’s rapid plunge into the depths of philosophy made Carey wonder if he did the right thing by encouraging Seminatore. “Nick had been down for a while, but when he got into philosophy he was extremely engrossed, driven, very motivated,” he said.

“Suddenly, it was pedal to the metal,” added another friend, Shawn Judd.

Such swings of mood are characteristic of bipolar disorder, with which Seminatore, according to his obituary in the Feb. 1 Telegraph, fought a “long, heartbreaking struggle.”

Carey said he really began to question his decision when Seminatore intentionally traded his apartment for homelessness, telling friends it gave him the opportunity to get out and “share his message” with everyone, Carey said.

“I think it was his tendency toward such wide (mood) swings,” Carey said of Seminatore’s seemingly over-the-top choice. “He reveled in it. Some of us tried to persuade him to take a more conventional path, but then we figured, ‘Hey, it’s his choice, and he’s incredibly happy, who are we to tell him what to do?’ ”

He remembers the frigid winter night that Seminatore, who had just joined the crusade against fluoridated water, printed out a big stack of fliers and announced his intention to post them around Nashua.

“It was like 10 degrees; here were are at 1 in the morning, out by Leda Lanes,” Carey said with a laugh. “I finally told Nick I was so cold I couldn’t do it. He said, ‘No problem, I understand, but I need to keep going. I need to do this.’ ”

And he did, Carey said. “The next day I asked him if he was tired, he said, ‘No way, I feel great, they’re all up.’ I’d never seen that kind of determination before,” Carey said.

Carey and Judd were listening to music last Wednesday when Judd suddenly hollered to Carey. “I saw the shock on his face,” Carey said, recalling how he sat in disbelief after Judd told him the news. The two verified what they prayed was a rogue rumor. “It was devastating,” Judd said.

“Every passion Nick had became his own romance with life,” friend John Padellaro said. “The friendship he gave me was absolute.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).