When Brazil makes their debut in the World Cup against Switzerland tomorrow, Adam Nicely will be watching the game at the house of a friend he very nearly never had a chance to meet.
The friend, 54-year-old Angelo Lother, helped save his life on Father’s Day three years ago.
“A brother from another mother, I call him,” Lother said. “He has come to my house every Father’s Day (since that day) and I’ve gotten to know his family. I really cherish the bond that we have.”
Lother and Nicely’s paths crossed in the most harrowing of ways when the Brazilian food scientist witnessed Nicely’s car crashing into the Cooper River near his Collingswood, N.J. home. Nicely had lost control of his vehicle after suffering a seizure early that Sunday morning while Lother was having his morning cup of coffee.
Lother’s quick call to 9-1-1 and the actions of two other area residents who happened to be there walking in the park at the time and first responders from the police and fire department saved Nicely from drowning. The father of two survived the crash with barely a scratch after being submerged in his car underwater.
But the 41-year-old has very little recollection of any of the events that day. In fact, the last thing he remembers prior to the incident was a brief conversation he had with his now 9-year-old son Wilder.
“He said ‘don’t go, don’t go’ and I was like ‘oh whatever, it’s fine,’” Nicely said. “I left and then I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up in the hospital.”
An avid soccer fan who likes to play with his two children in the backyard and regularly goes to Philadelphia Union games, Nicely said the encounter informs a lot of what he does now, even when attending games at Talen Energy Stadium.
“One thing for sure is I always tell Wilder that we’re not going to leave a game early, I don’t care how bad they look,” he said. “There was one game near the beginning of the season where they just looked absolutely horrendous and we didn’t leave when everybody was piling out. To me, you never leave the game, you never know what’s going to happen.”
In addition to becoming a more avid Union fan since the accident — his son’s passion for the team and his favorite player, Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho, has helped fuel that — Nicely also started performing in musicals for the first time.
“There was no major life change like you normally read with these kind of things but I would say that it definitely emboldened me,” he said. “I’m in a play right now, a musical. I definitely would have never done that before.”
Another thing he’s gained is the friendship he’s formed with Lother, who has also drawn strength from the incident while going through some personal hardships of his own.
“I was somehow blessed being in that place and time,” Lother said. “If I was not looking out the window I am afraid Adam would not be with us and that’s what gives me the chills.”
Lother and 10 others were publicly thanked by the Nicelys and honored by the New Jersey borough a few weeks after the accident for their role in the rescue. But the gratitude Nicely and his family feel hasn’t dissipated. Before heading to Angelo’s house for the game tomorrow afternoon, Nicely plans to drop off goodies at the local police and fire stations.
“I think Father’s Day has become a bit more about doing stuff for other people,” Nicely said.
And this year, with the World Cup happening, it will also involve plenty of soccer. That Brazil is playing is an added bonus.
“So that’s kind of weird, again we’re going to be together for Father’s Day and it’s for a very good reason,” Nicely said.