AMO joins seagoing labor community in mourning the loss of Nicholas Celona

Seafarers International Union Vice President of Government Services Nicholas Celona died at his home in New Orleans, La. on June 8, apparently from natural causes. He was 65.

“Back in the early 1980s, Nick and I had the privilege of working together in the port of New Orleans, a time during which we forged a lifelong friendship,” said SIU President David Heindel. “Nick was a rare individual, brimming with a huge heart and an unwavering love for life. His infectious enthusiasm and unadulterated bravado left an indelible mark on everyone he met. As we remember Nick, we celebrate not only a dedicated seafarer but also a beloved father and friend who enriched our lives in countless ways. My deepest sympathies to his wife, Denise, and daughters Jennifer and Danielle.”

“Many AMO hawsepipers got to know Nick during their years sailing with the SIU, some from the very beginning of their careers. For all of us who have worked shoreside, Nick was a driving force and steadfast presence at many of the events and meetings that brought the U.S. seagoing labor community together to advance the cause of American mariners professionally and politically,” said American Maritime Officers National President Willie Barrere. “He was a leader we had the pleasure of knowing and a man we mourn in his passing.”

Celona had served as a vice president with the SIU since 2021. He worked as a patrolman in New Orleans from 1983 to 1988. He spent 1989 serving as the port agent in Piney Point before what turned out to be a long-term move to the West Coast. Celona was the union’s San Francisco port agent from 1990 to 1994, the year he became an SIU assistant vice president.

Among other activities, he served as a delegate on the San Francisco-Alameda Labor Council, secretary-treasurer of the local port council, and a governor-appointed member of the board of directors of the Cow Palace (a popular, multi-purpose arena in Daly City, California).

Always politically active, Celona organized the union’s annual Thanksgiving gatherings in San Francisco and Oakland. Those feasts evolved into a Who’s Who of politics, with regular appearances from Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, John Garamendi, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Spier and many others. Based on his extensive work with the military, Celona in 2002 was sworn in as an honorary U.S. Marine, a rarity.

A 1977 graduate of Paul Hall Center Trainee Class 229, Celona was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Lafayette High School in 1976 and soon thereafter found a home with the SIU. After completing the trainee program, he sailed in the engine department until 1982, upgrading several times along the way (most recently to chief electrician). He sailed on vessels operated by Sea-Land, Maritime Overseas, Delta Line, American Hawaii Cruises, Bay Tankers and others.