Steven S. Nichols

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Steven S. Nichols Died Age 60 (1952-2013) Steve took leave recently of his earthly phase to check out the other aspects of the Great Mystery. He was descended of a pioneer Wisconsin family the Nikulson>Nichols clan who came in two waves in 1843 and 1852 from Telemark, Norway to settle first in Old Muskego just a few miles from his home of the last couple of decades in Burlington. Several of the clan were folk painters in Norway. The most well-known rosemaler of the family, Nikuls Buine, Steve’s great great grandfather died of cholera the day his ship arrived in Milwaukee. Two of his wife’s relatives in the colony also lost their husbands to the cholera epidemics. In 1854 the three widows with 21 children, or spouses and children emigrated again in self-made oxen drawn Norwegian wagons and settled in Springfield Township in Trempealeau Valley where they were the first white settlers with the Winnebago Indians living nearby. Steve was born in Rockford, IL in 1952 and died at sister Kathy’s home recently after his battle with brain cancer. After graduating from Highland Community College in Freeport, IL Steve became a waiter in an upscale Swiss resort. When done with the job he visited in-laws in Greece and traveled through Europe. His second degree was in Psychology from Northern Illinois University and with that background went to work for the Winnebago Tribe. The program was cut during the Reagan administration and he then proceeded to receive his M.A. in counseling from UW-Platteville. He had a variety of jobs between colleges, a waiter in Switzerland, in kitchens, steel mill and construction where he picked up valuable skills. One of his enjoyable and exotic jobs kept for a year was a Guatemalan textile import business. He’d make buying trips to villages, with some sight-seeing side trips, and then sell his wares at his Madison stand. He took up karate when it sprung up around the country and pursued it to a black belt level. He enjoyed the dance-like Kata and body conditioning but the Bruce Lee martial aspect of it meant little to him. In truth, he was a 6’4” genial, generous and gentle giant. He was a peacemaker. His career was built around that. He went on to explore other Asian disciplines such as Tai Chi and Yoga. With the latter, he became skilled enough to instruct classes. His wife and companion of 40 years, Nancy, was an artist and also a counselor, preceded him in death in 2011. They had several experiences together that fed their counseling careers. They were avid fans of canoeing, camping and catching fish for meals. In their youth they were counselors at YMCA Camp at Lake Archibald in Northern Wisconsin where they taught canoeing. Later they worked as caretakers at a home for disturbed juveniles in Dixon, IL. Another adventure was a six month backpacking tour through Mexico, including the territory of Quintana Roo among the Lacandonian Maya. Before the government had surveyed the Copper Canyon, which is three times the size of Grand Canyon, they carried two weeks supplies of provisions and were the sole outsiders to hike into the remote Tarahumara settlements. They rejoiced in celebration Holy Week dancing and festing in several villages with the tribe famous for running. In the next year they proudly served their country in the Peace Corps. They were assigned to a remote region of the Fiji Islands. Before leaving, Fijians held a ceremony in which they presented Steve and Nancy with whales’ teeth. Steve, in addition was presented with a boar’s tusk, a high honor for which he was duly grateful. Steve’s construction experience came in handy in doing structural remodeling of their two houses. He spent seven years on his home in Burlington completely remaking his cottage with structural changes, doubling the size, with beautiful finished woodwork and ceramic tiling. When his daughter was half grown they spent a summer with Peace Corps friends in Ireland, then Norway to meet with cousins at his ancestral homes. Steve again returned to Europe late in his career, taking a crash course in Italian, to help lead the student Italian Club on tour in Italy. By mid-life he had taken up Nordic skiing, sailing his boat on Lake Geneva, gaining a working knowledge of Italian, Spanish and Fijian. In his 40’s he took up the violin. He’d been a counselor for 22 years at Westosha Central High School, and he had wanted to return to work but fate didn’t turn his way. He was active in his local and state N.E.A. His co-workers were loyal to the end using mail and social media to keep in touch. Three of his co-workers drove cross country to visit him in the last weeks of life and another life friend flew from NY to spend a day with him and bid farewell. The list of well wishes and affectionate greetings from many friends is quite a tribute. His Socratic-like acceptance of his impending death was most admirable. There were no complaints, no resentment, no anger and his affable smile lasted to the end. Survivors: His daughter Leiloni, his brothers Daniel, Karl, sisters Christine and Kathy. The Cat Jadu. Preceded in death: by his wife Nancy and parents Daniel and Ethel. The family cordially invites you to join them and share stories at the “Celebration of Life” held in Burlington on March 30th from 4-8:00 pm with service at 6:00 pm. Conducting the service, Venerable Bhikkuni Vimala. This will be held at The Cathe Center, 125 East State Street, Burlington. Refreshments to follow. In Lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established in his name.

Published in Racine Journal Times on Mar. 24, 2013