‘Hometown’ sentiment drove Nichols

As evidenced by the turnout at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church last week, Jim Nichols touched many in our region.

In the obituary published on Feb. 8 and 9 in the OBSERVER, there was one line that summed up James T. Nichols and his commitment to Dunkirk and the surrounding communities: he “couldn’t or wouldn’t say ‘no’ to anybody.”

For Nichols, it all came down to a belief in this region. He could see the possibilities daily from his business at 111 Eagle St., especially during the summer months. Less than two blocks away was the under-utilized treasure that local leaders and residents often take for granted right on our doorstep.

If he was not at his Nichols’ Hometown Service “shop of dreams,” spending time with family or building relationships with customers, he was boosting Lake Erie — or taking advantage of its fishing. All this work was done fairly quietly. He never sought the spotlight or wanted public credit for anything. Jim, ultimately, just wanted Dunkirk and its waterfront to succeed.

Thanks to his time chairing the city Harbor Commission, as past president of the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club, and his efforts to bring the recent Great Lakes Experiences, Nichols never turned down a chance to contribute to an endeavor that would promote our waters and area.

An overwhelming number here remembered his contributions last Saturday in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Washington Street in the city during the afternoon funeral. His all-too-sudden death on Feb. 4 touched many — and the parish was filled to capacity at close to 1,000.

Some of those in attendance included local elected leaders, members of the city police force and fire department as well as a segment of the New York state troopers. Most importantly during the service, Nichols’ wife, Nancy, his children, grandchildren, mother and his other relatives were surrounded by those who he considered as part of his extended family.

“All of us have some kind of special connection to him and we will carry memories for a long, long time,” said the Rev. Dennis G. Riter, church pastor. “His jovial, friendly personality. His customer service … personal service with integrity. His delight in local history and the stories that he told. All the ingredients of a local legend.”

Many would agree.

Nichols had an unforgettable, unmistakable booming voice that was filled with a welcome and friendly tone. He offered positive suggestions — on an individual and area level — for a brighter future. Those traits are already missed.

He also did plenty of head shaking over some state and local governmental decisions, but was always grateful for the city where he lived.

Though he was involved, he was never right in the middle. He was never overbearing and always had a sharp focus on his priorities. It was family first — with Dunkirk and his customers a close second.

“My dad was passionate about making Dunkirk great again,” his daughter Nicolette Nichols remarked in the eulogy. “He believed we as a community could come together and draw visitors here to our Great Lake Erie.”

In Jim’s memory, we are all tasked with continuing that mission. Growing our tourist base — and bringing those who live and travel here — to our waters.

Nicolette Nichols then reminded those at the funeral to recall her dad with fondness. “He would want you to smile and remember his quick-wit ways, his generous ways,” she said.

Still, our community cannot help but shed some tears in losing such a giant.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.