PALM HARBOR, Florida - Neighbors are mourning the loss of a Palm Harbor bishop who drowned while on an Independence Day family vacation in North Carolina.
"It's hard to believe he is not here anymore," said neighbor Gary Smith.
William Nicolaro was attending an annual July 4th family reunion with his wife, children, and grandchildren when he and one of his sons became caught up in a rip current on a beach.
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The son escaped, but the 72-year-old bishop could not free himself from the deadly current in Ocean Isle Beach.
Nicolaro lived on Belted Kingfish Drive and was well-liked by everyone in the neighborhood.
"He was just so warm and giving, and the greatest person to talk to. You know, I couldn't wait to get over there to talk to him," said neighbor Ann Smith.
As pastor of his own church, called Holy Apostles Charismatic Church in Dunedin, Nicolaro was known to many at "Bishop Bill."
"He did not push religion on people, but just by talking to Bill he would give you faith," said Gary Smith, who spent many evenings in what he called the "man cave," Nicolaro's garage.
Smith even credits his friend and neighbor with turning him on to new interests.
"He liked to brew his own beer. He got me into brewing beer and we'd sample each other's little brew," he said.
Nicolaro leaves behind a wife, five children, and 19 grandchildren.