Celebration of a young life cut short by tragedy

Photo courtesy Lazara Capote


On June 5, with completion of his junior year at Fort Lee High School just around the corner, John Graniello wrote eloquently about his love for his family, his life and his dreams for the future.

Looking ahead, John envisioned flying a plane, traveling the world, visiting the pyramids, acquiring a “pet penguin,” going on safari and opening a restaurant. All of this he would accomplish, he wrote, after he retired, in his “mid-20s.”

Unfortunately, he will do none of these things.

Three days after he typed up his manuscript, the 16-year-old fell to his death from atop the Palisades Interstate Park in Fort Lee in what authorities characterized as a tragic accident.

In his touching memoir, John recalled how his mother, Lazara Capote, lovingly called him and his younger brother Vincent as her “miracle babies” because they came into the world through “in vitro fertilization.”

John relished his early years in Haworth, where “life just couldn’t get any better. … From mountains of toys, to the large boat in Long Island that we’d spend our summer weekends on, life was great.”

That dream life took a slight detour when his parents split up in 2005 and he ended up living with his mom.

While he admits to some disagreements between him and his dad, Michael Graniello, “that has never gotten in the way of the love we share. … I am so glad and proud to call him my father.” John wrote lovingly about summers and holidays spent with his dad’s family in Long Island, N.Y., and time spent on the family boat. He also shared good times with his “beautiful half-sister Chloe Graniello.”

His appetite for material things notwithstanding, John also came to appreciate the value system he acquired from “mom – my hero.”

Yes, this is a 16-year-old speaking – a 16-year-old who describes himself as a “couch potato” and a fan of “hip-hop and rap.”

Listen to John’s uncoached testimony: It was his mother, he wrote, who “has had the biggest impact on my life compared to anyone else. She has taught me everything I know today, and she’s also responsible for all the good decisions I’ve made in my past. … My mom is my number one hero because she made me the well-mannered teenager I am today.”

John recounts proudly how his mom, as a young child, left her native Cuba with her family in 1966 to live in the U.S. An “A” student from the fourthgrade onward and an honor roll achiever in high school, who later became a textile design coordinator and professional trainer but “gave up her career just to raise me correctly,” teaching him “how to cook like a chef and how to clean like a housekeeper, two very important skills to have in life.”

John also credits his mom with teaching him English and Spanish and Spanish culture, “how to properly behave in restaurants,” and for not spoiling him.

“My mother would always make sure that I earned what I was given,” John wrote. “For example, if I wanted a new box of ‘Legos,’ then I would clean the house every day for five days.” “My mom came to America with nothing but the clothes on her back, and she worked as hard as she possibly could to become a strong and successful individual,” John wrote. “She taught me that only you can make the best out of your life, and if you truly want something, you must earn it.”

Even after being diagnosed with lupus after the birth of her second child, his mother’s health issues “never stopped her from being a spontaneous and ‘full of life’ individual.”

Still, John wrote, his mom also taught him the importance of enjoying life to the max “without going too crazy. My mom taught me that life is a gift, and it can’t be wasted. … She made me realize that you can’t let small and unnecessary things ruin your mood or day. ….”

“My mother and I have such an unbreakable and beautiful relationship that simply cannot be described in words,” John wrote.

Not that everything was always bliss but strife seemed only a temporary aberration. As John explained, “Our loud and roaring arguments will always end up in tears and laughter once the day is over. It’s almost like we have the same mind; we always think of the same ideas and strategies. If I was to pick one person in the entire world that I could be like when I’m older, it would most definitely be my mother.”

At Fort Lee High School, John was a member of the morning TV newscast program and had taken his SATs the weekend before his passing and was looking forward to a future college career.

John was beloved by classmates and teachers, alike. One of his instructors observed: “There are certain students who remain in a teacher’s heart and John was one of them.”

Outside of school, John held down a job at Fairway Market and in his mini-autobiography, he illustrated the text with images of various produce items and listed each section of the text as different “aisles.”

John’s funeral was held June 13 at the Hunt Stellato Funeral Home, Fort Lee. Burial followed in Madonna Cemetery, Fort Lee.

– Ron Leir


Sign this petition – save a life

The tragedy that befell young John Graniello was not uncommon to the area. People of all ages have met their end at the cliffs in Palisades Interstate Park. Critics note that the only thing protecting people from a fall is a flimsy three-foot tall fence composed of mere wires.

John Graniello’s cousins, Gina and Jennifer Sancho are hoping to change that. “We are petitioning for a safer future,” they explained. “Adequate lighting, a higher railing and a safety net placed at the edge of the cliff will stop newspaper reports like these and save many young lives like Johnny’s. “

As a tribute to their beloved cousin, Graniello’s relatives are asking that the safety measure be called “Johnny’s Net.”

After obtaining signatures, the petition will be forwarded to Governor Chris Christie.

If you would like to sign the petition please visit: www.facebook.com/johngnet

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