Nicholas J. de Gregory Sr. passed away late Friday night, November 6th, in Hudson, Florida. For those that knew Nick, the timing was no surprise, as he was always a night owl. Nick was born to Joseph de Gregory and Angela Noto on April 23, 1940. He grew up in Pearl River, New York and found himself on his own by the age of 13. As a young man, Nick learned to be tough and savvy but quickly came to understand the importance of hard work, humor, kindness, and tolerance. Little more than a child, he supported himself by shining shoes and selling newspapers on the streets of East Patterson, New Jersey and also worked at Peel’s Restaurant in nearby Fair Lawn. With the encouragement and support of the many colorful characters that shared his boarding house, Nick enrolled in the Como School of Beauty Culture in Hackensack. At 15, Nick graduated from beauty school and was awarded a temporary license until he was 16. Nick continued to find success in high school while working part-time at a few beauty parlors. In the summers, he worked at Gulden’s Mustard with several German expatriates who swore no one was looking for them.
In the early 1960s, Nick met his first wife, Sandra L. Merkel, and embarked on the first of his many entrepreneurial ventures, opening his first beauty salon, Colony Coiffures, in Lodi, New Jersey. Nick and Sandra were married in East Patterson on September 21, 1964, and Nick was deployed to the Korean Peninsula one week later. After serving abroad for eight months, Nick returned to New Jersey for the birth of his first son, Nicholas J. de Gregory, Jr. Sandra suddenly passed away in March of 1969, leaving Nick a single parent. Prioritizing his young family with the support of his Uncle Dick, Aunt Jean, and the LaSasso family, among others, he ran two salons and managed a household.
Nick soon met his second wife, best friend, and partner in crime, Noreen “Penny” Cesareo, although their relationship started on rough ground. Penny called Nick’s beauty parlor for a hair treatment and was told he was to busy to take her appointment. Frustrated, Penny told a friend it would be “a cold day in hell” before she went back to his shop. A few weeks later, hell’s temperature plummeted, and Penny found herself in one of Nick’s salon chairs. They were married in 1970 and welcomed their first child together, Danielle M. de Gregory, on March 20, 1971. Shortly after their wedding, Nick decided that it was time for a career change and got a job as a photojournalist for the Newark’s Star-Ledger. Ever his partner, Penny worked alongside Nick as a photographer at the paper. Later, Newark’s Herald News also benefited from Nick’s talents. Throughout his career, Nick photographed numerous celebrities, including Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, Presidents Carter and Ford, and poet Allen Ginsberg. He also covered numerous important events. His favorite subject to photograph, however, was his family, which always included at least one dog. His images were used by the Associated Press, Saturday Night Live, and other major media outlets. Nick and Penny’s photos went on to win awards and were featured in the Minolta Mirror.
In January 1980, Penny gave birth to Nick’s second son, J. Rocco de Gregory. Primed for yet another adventure, Nick and Penny bought a 1950s-style car-hop restaurant in South Glens Falls, New York. To supplement the family’s income from the seasonal restaurant business, Nick spent the winters bartending at Jimbo’s Club in Brant Lake, New York. The work was a perfect match for Nick’s social personality, and his patrons, many of whom became dear friends, could always expect to be entertained by a joke, story, or the occasional prank. In the 1990s, Nick was blessed with the first of his several grandchildren as the de Gregory family ushered in a new generation. Whether working alongside his wife or playing with his children and grandchildren on his float in Brant Lake, he considered the time he spent with his family to be the very best of his life. Nick always told people that his kids were the crown that he wore, but his grandkids were the jewels in the crown. He retired from the restaurant business in 2001 but continued bartending, more for the social aspects than for the monetary gains. Nick and Penny relocated to Florida in 2012 and joyfully welcomed another granddaughter to the de Gregory family this past year. He spent his final years doing what he loved most—spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren and taking photographs.
Those left to cherish his photographs, stories, and memory are his loving wife of over 50 years, Noreen “Penny”; his son, Nicholas Jr., his wife Diane, and their daughters Alyssa, Angela, Kristen, and Stephanie; his daughter Danielle Sweet, her husband Tom, and their children John and Erin; and his youngest son Rocco, his wife Heidi and their daughter Faye. Additionally, Nick touched the lives of many throughout the numerous and
Varied chapters of his life that are too numerous to mention by name; Nick never met someone he couldn’t talk to for hours.
Due to the current pandemic, memorial services will be private; however, the family invites all to visit Nick’s memorial page and share their favorite memories at https://prevattfuneralhome.com/tribute/all-services/index.html
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Nick’s name be made to Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).