A celebration of life, not a memorial

Newport Harbor Nautical Museum hosts an exhibit honoring Nick Scandone, a gold medal winner in the Paralympics.

October 19, 2010|By Tom Ragan,
  • Felipe Bascope, left, and exhibit designer Dean Andrews, place a wall-size picture of Nick Scandone at the Newport Beach Nautical Museum's Extraordinary People: A tribute to Nick Scandone show, which celebrates his life through memorabilia and pictures.
Felipe Bascope, left, and exhibit designer Dean Andrews,… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — He referred to ALS not as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but as "A Love for Sailing."

It was Nick Scandone's way of turning his death sentence from Lou Gehrig's disease into a positive, which he did time and again. He won a gold medal in sailing at the 2008 Paralympics games in Beijing, just months before he died on Jan. 2, 2009.

Tuesday night at 6:30, the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum will unveil an exhibit honoring Scandone's life, where Gary Jobson, a world-famous yachtsman and America's Cup winner, will be on hand to say a few words about Scandone.

"This is a celebration of his life; it's not a memorial," said Nick's widow, Mary Kate Scandone, 48, who was by his side when he died. His last words to her — just before she removed the oxygen mask from his face — were "I love you."

He didn't want to be put on life support. Scandone lived life boldly, both before and after the diagnosis, which came in July 2002, after he complained of back pain and began having trouble walking.


And yet in the face of such bad news, he kept pushing forward, Mary Kate said, mostly because he was an athlete at heart, whether golfing, playing baseball, surfing or sailing.

"He was pretty much golden, whatever he touched athletically," said Felipe Bascope, the exhibit's curator.

With the help of Dean Andrews, the exhibit's designer, the pair have been logging long hours to get the show ready. At one point, Andrews even took to taking cat naps in his car instead of heading back to his home in Laguna Beach.

In assembling the endless amounts of awards and trophies, and in conducting volumes of interviews with family members, Bascope said he's gotten to know Nick incredibly well — the proof of which will be on display inside the tiny three-room exhibit.

If you step back and look closely, it looks a lot like a sailboat.

Look skyward, away from the white sails that separate the tiny rooms, and you will see some of Nick's greatest quotations and anecdotes, including his mother's now-famous utterance to him as a child: "Nick, do you want to go to summer school or sailing school?"

He chose sailing school, of course.

Other great insights inside the exhibit — alongside his gold medal, his congratulatory letter from former President George W. Bush and his childhood photographs — will include:

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