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John P. Nilon

Thu, 02/01/2024 - 10:33

Nov. 15, 1955 - Dec. 22, 2023

John P. Nilon “had the rare talent of making people laugh,” his family wrote, recalling that “when he entered a room, it always seemed to light up. . . . He was everyone’s best friend.”

Mr. Nilon, who was 68, died at home in Manhattan on Dec. 22 of cardiovascular disease.

He was born in the Bronx on Nov. 15, 1955, to John Edward Nilon and the former Ellen Mallon, and grew up in Elmont and Floral Park. He attended St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School and Sewanhaka High School before enrolling at State University’s Delhi College to study horticulture.

A lifelong surfer, Mr. Nilon moved to Montauk in his early 20s, “looking for the right wave,” his family said. There, he worked as a caretaker and also at times as a waiter, bartender, and house painter. He loved music and news, and played the guitar and harmonica.

Admired for his humbleness, Mr. Nilon shopped in thrift stores and was almost always seen wearing a pair of Converse All Stars. He enjoyed traveling and for periods of time lived in Florida, Europe, and the Caribbean, surfing whenever and wherever the opportunity arose. He particularly enjoyed surfing in Ireland, “back when the sport was less popular there,” his family said. In the early 1990s he spent a winter living in a tent in Hawaii, “only working as needed in order to maximize his surf time.”

Mr. Nilon “loved pets, enjoyed gardening and cooking, and in all endeavors always had an abundance of patience,” his family said.  He also played lacrosse and enjoyed basketball.

He was married to Marta Tobar in 1995 and moved with her to Manhattan.

“He was extremely generous and when someone was in need he was right there to help,” his family wrote. “Sometimes he neglected himself to help others. . . . John was extremely even-keeled and never seemed angry or sad.”

Along with his wife, he is survived by his brothers, Patrick Nilon of Lido Beach and Paul Nilon of Manhattan, and his sisters, Kathleen Maelia of Rockville Centre, Mary Ellen Gatz of Mattituck, and Eileen Nieves of Lindenhurst, and by many nieces and nephews.

A service was held at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton on Dec. 29, with burial at Cedar Lawn Cemetery, also in East Hampton.

Memorial donations have been suggested to the American Heart Association, online at



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