Walter Eugene "Gene" Nichols
July 2, 1928 – June 29, 2020
Walter Eugene Nichols (Gene), age 91, died at Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus, in the loving presence of family, on Monday, June 29, 2020. He was born on July 2, 1928, on Jefferson Street in South Bend, Indiana, to Lavonne Lancelot Nichols and Mary Kathryn Strope Nichols. Gene loved to claim that he was born in the shadow of the Gold Dome of The University of Notre Dame. The oldest of three sons, he lived most of his childhood to adult years in the Twin Branch neighborhood of Mishawaka, Indiana, a few blocks from the St. Joseph River. Gene remembered fondly a Huck Finn boyhood of swimming, fishing, and ice skating on the river’s bayou and later motor boating and water skiing on expanses of the river.
A 1946 graduate of Mishawaka High School with an engineering emphasis, Gene’s great academic love, however, was the study of Shakespeare. Throughout his adult life he emphasized points he wanted to make with Shakespearean quotes stored in his memory. In June, after high school graduation, Gene entered active service in the United States Navy and was honorably discharged after serving two years in Air/Sea Rescue out of NAS Jacksonville, Florida. Following the Navy, Gene returned to the Mishawaka/South Bend area and held jobs with the following: U. S. Rubber Co., Martin Furniture Co., Indiana Bell, and Studebaker Corporation, at the latter assembling automobiles that he remained passionate about and proud of his entire life.
Leaving the workforce to attend college, Gene reported to Indiana University in Bloomington. His first year at IU he lived in South Cottage Grove, housing for veterans, won two leadership awards, and was elected Vice President of a consortium of three residence halls. Memories of that first year were marked with the fact that he could afford only one meal per day. Gene’s second year he secured a job as a residence hall counselor at men’s Wright Quad which included three meals per day. He held this counseling position until the fall of 1960 when he was named the Head Resident of the Graduate Residence Center. After completing the Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and Business in June 1960, Gene was accepted into the training program for College Personnel and completed the Master’s Degree in that major in June 1961. During his early years at Indiana University Gene was initiated into Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Following 1961 spring interviews at the meeting of the National Association of College Personnel Administrators, Gene secured the position of Assistant Dean of Students at Georgia Institute of Technology. After a short tenure he was promoted to Associate Dean of Students. During his 11 years at Georgia Tech his positions and accomplishments included: Director of Housing, Chairman of the Board of Student Publications, Faculty Advisor to the students who started and developed the student FM radio station WREK, Faculty Advisor who started the Wrestling Club which in two years became a varsity sport, Georgia Tech Faculty Club Chairperson for a variety of faculty social events.
In 1972 Gene was hired as the Dean of Student Affairs at Brunswick Junior College which is now the College of Coastal Georgia. In this position he supervised a staff of 14, including the following responsibilities: Registrar and Admissions, Financial Aid, Counseling, Student Activities and Publications, Varsity and Intramural Athletics. His work portfolio expanded when he administered the off-campus program at Kings Bay Submarine Base, where he advised students, organized courses, and appointed faculty. For three years he also served as Job Placement and Employment Specialist on campus. Upon his 1988 retirement Gene received the honor of Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Professor of Education Emeritus from the University System of Georgia.
During his career, Gene was highly invested in participating in professional organizations. In the Southern College Personnel Association which included colleges and universities from 16 southern states, his leadership progressed from chairing several committees and organizing the Annual Conference to membership in the Executive Council, where he served first as Treasurer and then as President of the organization.
Community involvement illustrated Gene’s wide variety of interests and talents. In Atlanta he was a member of St. James United Methodist Church where he taught the teen Sunday School class and served as Superintendent of the Sunday School. He was a Charter Member of the WWII Museum in New Orleans and was a supportive member of the U. S. Naval Institute. A WWII history buff and collector of historic war memorabilia, for years Gene co-chaired a WWII Book Club in Glynn County. In 2019 he was honored with his family by the St.Simons Land Trust Member Spotlight for giving back to the community.
One of Gene’s great passions grew out of his involvement as a soccer parent and progressed into one of his most cherished and lasting endeavors. With help from others, he started the Golden Isles Soccer Club, a traveling team for youth that grew from one team to teams for many age groups. As a result of his efforts and dedication to getting soccer into the Glynn County public high schools, he was named the Father of Glynn Academy Soccer. In addition, a trophy for Glynn Academy Soccer Team Player of the Year is named for him. In 2015 he was honored at the soccer complex on Jekyll Island as the 1981 Founder of the Golden Isles Soccer Association.
Always into motor boats, circa 1970-71 Gene expanded into sailing, purchasing a 25’ Coronado sailboat on Lake Lanier. The boat was named Hoo Jay for an Indiana Hoosier and a Kansas Jayhawk. He brought that boat to St. Simons and loved the challenge of saltwater sailing. With amazing knowledge and hands-on craftmanship, Gene restored two ski boats and one wooden boat; wooden boats remained a perennial love of his.
Travel was part of Gene’s DNA. He traveled and camped with his family from coast to coast in the USA as well as the Maritime Provinces of Canada, later adding guided trips to Europe, China, and Africa. With his wife, Creta, Gene even survived a Greek ship sinking in 2007.
Rounding out his very long and full life, Gene enjoyed music from Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson and Elvis and Peter, Paul, and Mary to opera and symphonic and The Three Tenors; a natural tenor, he could harmonize and loved singing Elvis’ Trilogy; he was the best dancer with the smoothest jitterbug in the world; he spent each week reading local newspapers and the Sunday NY Times as well as stacks of history books; all sports, especially Bobby Knight basketball and Notre Dame football, were a major focus… He will be remembered by many St. Simons locals as the Brunswick News delivery man who took over his sons’ routes after they went to college.
Gene loved his family beyond measure and was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. On August 19, 1961, he married his Indiana University Graduate School sweetheart, Creta Carter, in the Methodist Church in her hometown, Jennings, Kansas. From wedding to Atlanta they settled into a faculty apartment in Towers Dormitory at Georgia Tech. In 1965 their first son, Scott Eugene, was born, and in 1971 their second son, Christopher Carter, was born. The family moved to St. Simons Island in 1972. Gene fostered a great love of boats and boating in both sons. He and Scott fished and shrimped. When Christopher’s focus was soccer, Gene invested great energy in that. In addition, as “Bapa,” he generously supported the talents and interests of his beloved grandchildren.
Gene was predeceased by both his parents and his brother and sister-in-law, Jack Louis Nichols and his wife Kathryn. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Creta, of St. Simons Island; his two sons and daughters-in-law, Scott Eugene Nichols and wife Charmayne of Athens, Georgia, Christopher Carter Nichols and wife Andrea of Bishop, Georgia, and two grandchildren, Christopher Carter Nichols, Jr. and Katherine Anne Nichols of Bishop, Georgia; his brother, James Allen Nichols and wife Carol of Blue Ridge, Georgia; and a number of loving and devoted nieces and nephews.
A private family graveside service will be held at Christ Church, Frederica Cemetery on July 7, 2020. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, a memorial celebration of life service will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in honor of W. Eugene Nichols to the Glynn County Schools Boys’ and Girls’ High School Soccer Programs, C/O Steve Waters, Glynn County Schools Athletic Director, 291 Community Action Drive, Brunswick, GA 31520.
“GO IRISH AND GO DAWGS!”
Edo Miller and Sons is in charge of the arrangements. You may sign the register book and leave condolences for the family at www.edomillerandsons.com
Sea Fever By John Masefield
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
A Private Family Graveside Service , Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a memorial celebration of life service will be held at a later date.
Walter Eugene "Gene" Nichols
July 13, 2020
TO: THE GENE NICHOLS FAMILY --
A SINCERE NOTE TO EXPRESS OUR SYMPATHY TO YOUR FAMILY RELATED TO THE PASSING OF YOUR BELOVED 'GENE'.
WE MET GENE & CRETA IN THE 1970'S WHEN GENE & I (CHARLIE) SERVED AS 'DEANS OF STUDENT AFFAIRS' @ COLLEGES WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GA. AFTER
RETIREMENT, I ALWAYS ENJOYED 'CATCHING-UP' WITH GENE OVER 'BREAKFAST' DOWN ON THE ST.SIMONS PIER OVERLOOKING THE 'ATLANTIC OCEAN'. OUR FRIENDSHIP WILL ALWAYS BE CHERISHED --MAY GENE REST IN ETERNAL PEACE...
YOUR FRIENDS --CHARLIE & LINDA CLOANINGER
(VPSA-EMERITUS - MACON STAT E COLLEGE - 1970-1998)
(1439 Old Forsyth Rd., Macon, GA 31210)
July 7, 2020
Scott and Christopher
I will always cherish the many GA/FL weekends on SSI and the oyster roasts and what a a trooper your dad was throwing another bag of oysters on the fire to roast for all of us crazy college students. God Bless Him and many prayers for you and your family and your sweet mom
July 7, 2020
so very sorry Creta and condolences to you and your family. i so enjoyed talking with him over the years about almost anything. of course nd
Paul and Marlene Early
July 7, 2020
Creta - we are so sorry to hear of Gene's passing. While we didn't know him for a long time, the time that we did we treasured. He was the leader in our cardiac rehab sessions - a quiet, subdued presence but always willing to take command in any discussions on any matter, especially (for me) his interest in Notre Dame football and his interest in music. His life experiences and his knowledge lent greatly to any discussion. He will be missed.
Requiescat in pace, Gene!
Jim & Carol Nichols
July 7, 2020
Our memories of you Gene will comfort our family and friends as life goes on. I know you as my "Bro" and cherish you along with our brother Jack as the two best mentors that I could have ever hoped to have. Thanks for always being there when I needed you both. It is an awful void without you two, but I look forward to the time we can again share our fond and funny memories. Rest in peace Gene!
July 7, 2020
You are in my thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time. In the days ahead I hope your memories will bring you comfort and smiles.
Love to you
July 6, 2020
Gene will always be remembered for his love of FIJI Georgia Florida weekend at his home...well maybe lol
Cold beer, warm roasted fresh oysters, warm shower and a loving home to rest our heads
Gene was the ultimate Christian...offering his home and his love for his family and FIJI family
Rest in Peace Gene!!!
Carolyn and Ken hall
July 1, 2020
Dear Creta and family, We are so sorry to hear about Gene. What a fine husband, father, grandfather and member of our community - He will be missed. All our thoughts and prayers are with you all in this trying time. But Gene could not have had a fuller or better life, and that is something we hope helps all of you through this. I think one of our cutest, nicest memories of Gene was during his "newspaper" days with the boys. And after they left home, he still loved to run those routes in his VW - Ken could always hear him coming down the street and would meet him by the mailbox. Let us hope we all meet at the mailbox again some day. May the Lord bless you and keep you. love, Carolyn and Ken
June 30, 2020
Creta, thinking of you and your family at this time.
June 30, 2020
Dear Creta and family,
Our deepest sympathy. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Love, Wiley and Mary Younce and family