Chester D. Nicholson
Chet Nicholson died on Saturday, May 24, 2014 after a short but severe battle with cancer.
He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Gail: his daughter, Kristen, married to Rusty Necaise, and their children Eve and Jude; his son, Jesse, married to Jennifer (Ryals) Nicholson and their children Kylie, Kinsey, and Wyatt; his brothers, Charles and David Nicholson, and his sister, Stella Thomas.
Chet was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, the eldest child of Lucille (Overbay) and Arthur Lee Nicholson. Arthur Lee was a career soldier and the family lived in many places, including Darmstadt, Germany, until they settled in Aurora, Colorado in 1959. On June 2,1964, the day after his high school graduation Chet enlisted in the Army where he volunteered for Paratrooper training and received orders for the 501st Signal Battalion, 101 Airborne Division. During his training, he acquired a jump wings tattoo, was named soldier of the month three times, and claimed the Division rifle championship at 300 yards.
In December of 1965 he was ordered to Officer Candidate School at Ft. Gordon, GA, and he became a commissioned officer two weeks before his 20th birthday. Chet was asked to remain at the O.C.S Battalion for one cycle as a Tactical Officer, where in the course of developing leadership in a platoon of officer candidates, he acquired the name of "Red Wolf" and formed friendships that endured for his life.
In October 1966 Chet married Ellen McGuire and one year later, October 8, 1967 he landed with his Platoon in Phan Rang, South Vietnam where he saw combat with the 101 for nine months. Following separation from active duty, he joined the Colorado National Guard where he held the rank of Captain. Upon his return to Colorado he began college briefly, but quit upon learning that Kristen was on the way, and worked as a brick maker and a construction surveyor, while awaiting her birth on November 11, 1969. The following year he returned to college and graduated with Honors with a Degree in English from Colorado State University earning money by cutting timber and bartending with his friend from 8th grade until his death, Tom Mannschrek. His son, Jesse, was born on May 24, 1973.
In 1973, Ross Perot began recruiting Officers back from Viet Nam to "revamp Wall Street" and Chet took his family to Los Angeles, CA, where he trained and became a stockbroker. Thereafter he was offered a job in Denver as an Investigator with the Federal Government where he became the Supervising Investigator for the Denver Office and then a regional Investigator for internal affairs for the region.
In 1981 he decided to attend law school and chose The University of Mississippi which allowed him to continue his federal work on a part-time basis out of Memphis. Chet excelled at law school, winning top awards in many classes and graduating in the top 25% of his class. His first marriage ended during law school.
In the Spring of his final year of law school he met Gail during the course of a trial competition. They married in 1985, and Nicholson and Nicholson, Lawyers was established in 1987. Chet dropped his birth middle name of "Allen" and took Gail's maiden name, "Dodson", as Gail took his surname. Their personal and professional partnership was a true dance of life, and beautiful in the mutual respect and support between the two, with the meld including Kris and Jesse and later their mates and children.
Chet was a fearless Lawyer, who took unpopular cases, and relished championing people who lacked power to stand alone against the powers that be. His Clients loved him and he was respected in the legal community for his intellect, integrity, and tenacity. His long-time friend and lovely legal assistant, Lori Smith, was indispensible in his work.
An avid marathoner and hiker, he hiked the Rockies, most notably, the entire Appalachian Trail, (2000 miles in one six month hike). His enthusiasm for the wilderness drew other to hike with him, Kris, Jesse, Rusty, his brother David, brother-in-law Don, and even Gail who hiked 200 miles across England with him, "coast to coast". He was self-taught and played his Martin guitar entertaining generations of children of friends and family with his imaginative songs and distinctive voice.
In 2009 Chet authored the regional best-seller, "Dream Room, Tales of the Dixie Mafia". He recently completed a second book about to be published, "No Level Ground", the theme of which is the soul-killing effect of combat on the young men who get drawn into war. A third book, "Coast Rats, More Tales of the Dixie Mafia" is also essentially completed. While entertaining, the Dixie Mafia books are also historically accurate portrayals of the under-belly of the Mississippi Gulf Coast over several decades of the 20th century.
Chet loved literature, music, adventure, and his family. In the sunshine of his affection, you were on solid ground and better than you ever imagined that you could be. His children are his gift to the world. Kris is a French Teacher, Girl Scout Leader, and CEO of Mississippi Sound Publishing. LLC. Jesse made a career of the military, with tours of Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his conduct in Iraq and also has a tattoo of jump wings for his 82nd Airborne service. Their children are confident and love the world consistent with their role models.
Chet lived life without reserve and was what God intended a human to be. In his beloved Shakespeare's words, "He was a Man.... (We) shall not look upon his like again."
A celebration of life service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in the chapel of Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport. Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. The family prefers memorials to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675. View and sign register book at www.bradfordokeefe.com
Published in The Sun Herald on May 28, 2014