Thomas Samuel DeNardo passed away peacefully in his sleep March 6, 2013, at his home, at age 56.|
Tom was born Aug. 4, 1956, to Frank and Ann (nee Sullivan) DeNardo in Garden Grove, Calif.
He moved with his family to Anchorage, in 1959, where he spent his early years of life. The family moved back to California for a short period of time after the 1964 earthquake, returning to Alaska in 1969, where they settled in Fairbanks.
Tom was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17 and spent many years of his young adulthood with this chronic mental illness. At the time, the only option for people with chronic mental illness was the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage.
Tom's mother, Ann, searching for help for her son, became an activist in pushing for services and programs in Fairbanks and other communities.
Ann started FAMI in Fairbanks, a support and advocacy group for families dealing with mental illness, later changing their name to NAMI when it went statewide.
The state built a mental health complex in 1987 in Fairbanks.
The building would be named the "DeNardo Center," honoring Ann for all the work she did to help the mentally ill. The development of a new medication allowed Tom to return to Fairbanks where he was able to live at the DeNardo Center for many years. He enjoyed going to the club house and going on group trips to different places and making friends.
He was later able to move into the Golden Towers, where he lived independently until his death. Tom was a very proud uncle to his nephew and niece and welcomed the birth of his great-nephew in October 2011.
He enjoyed going on family trips to Chena Hot Springs and the annual Halloween party at Chatanika Lodge, family holidays and summer barbecues. He always looked forward to going to the Turtle Club for family birthdays and events, spending time with his older brother, David, at Summit Lake, snowmachining, visiting the Ice Park in the winter and the Tanana Valley State Fair in the summer.
Tom will be remembered for his wonderful sense of humor and his love for his family. He will be greatly missed, but we were blessed to have him in our lives as long as we did. The family was so happy he found some freedom from his crippling mental illness and was able to enjoy life and laugh once again.
Tom is survived by his older brother, David DeNardo; sister, Patricia and husband Donald Schmidt; nephew, Neal Schmidt; niece Ann Schmidt; great-nephew, Jaxon Freedle; step-mother, Sharon DeNardo; aunt Pat and husband Bob Jacobs; uncle, Richard Sullivan; close cousin, Joe Costa, and many other cousins too numerous to mention.
A celebration of life will be held starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 4, 2013, at the Elks Lodge 1003 Pioneer Road.
Tom's ashes will be spread with his mother's and father's on the Nowitna River (Novi River) this fall, per his wishes.
The family requests donations be made to NAMI of Fairbanks, Alaska for the Ann DeNardo Memorial Scholarship Fund in Tom's name at P.O. Box 72543 Fairbanks, AK 99707.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Apr. 7, 2013