Date Created: 01/04/2018
Last Updated: 01/04/2018

In loving memory of Donald Nichols
5/10/1927 - 12/24/2017

Location: Snowflake, Arizona

Visits: 17,502

I’m sharing this with those of you who may have known my father, Donald Wesley Nichols. He has passed onto a better place. My father was born May 10th 1927 in Corry Pennsylvania. He passed Christmas Eve (12/24/2017), just short of 4 hours before Christmas, my birthday. My father told us he did not want a funeral however, I would like to share with you a little of his life because he truly was a good and remarkable man!

My father was the youngest of 8 children. He was only 2 years old when his father abandoned his family. This was 1929 during the Great Depression. I can't imagine the challenges my grandmother had in raising 8 children but she did and I know my father was very appreciative of her sacrifice for her children. He mentioned she would clean houses, wash and iron clothes and later during WWII worked in a US defense factory.

When my father was 14 years old he dropped out of school and went to work for the Merchant Marines his mother signed for him as being 16 years old, which was the minimum age required. Then 2 years later when he was 16, he used this paperwork to show he was 18, which of course he wasn’t, to get into the Navy during WWII. He volunteered to become part of an underwater demolition team (UDT’s), which nowadays are known as Navy Seals. In those days they were called Frogmen, probably because all they wore were facemasks, snorkels and fins and of course they carried explosives on their backs used to clean beaches and offshore waters for the landing of troops.

I’m still amazed that he was only 17 years old when he helped clean the beaches of Okinawa. After these events in Okinawa he and the other UTD’s returned to a destroyer ship, which was attacked by the Japanese air force. They had suicide pilots known as Kamikaze pilots whose mission was to crash their planes into US ships. At the time of this air raid my father had just surfaced to the ships deck when it was hit by a Kamikaze plane, and exploded near him. He had been running to get to his assigned station of battle. He was knocked unconscious and blood was coming from his eyes and ears and he was hit with shrapnel. During this battle the wounded and dead were transported to the Medical ship. His friend and buddy (UTD’s were paired up with a buddy) never saw him again and were told he had been killed. He felt terrible because they had just had an argument/fought about where the safest place on the destroyer was. Decades later my father went to a Navy Seal reunion in Florida and met his buddy and friend. Tears were shed and a broken heart was mended. My father received a purple heart for his injuries.

After the war dad left the Navy and worked for a while but later joined the army, I think in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. He was a Staff Sergeant in charge of a Carrier, which looks like a big truck, with wheels up front, but tank treads on the back, mounted with a 50-caliber machine gun. These carriers were spread along the war front in Korea. He did receive the bronze star for meritorious service in a combat zone. Side note, dad always had a love for dogs. He had a German Shepard while he was in charge of the Carrier and she had puppies (compliments to the Colonel's German Shepard.)
After the war he left the army but it was while he was stationed in El Paso that he met his future wife, Linnie McNeil who was born in Mexico (Mormon Colonies) and had come to El Paso to earn money to become a missionary.

His first job after the war was working as a Routeman for Rainbow bread company, and later switched to Frito Lay - which later merged with Pepsi Cola.

They had 3 children; Richard, Nancy and myself. This should have been the American dream come true but it was brought with challenges. Before birth Nancy contracted toxoplasmosis and was born legally blind, she had some preserved peripheral vision and she was mentally challenged. Later I had an accident and was shot and peppered with bullets fragments and was blinded in my right eye. Later Richard developed paranoid schizophrenia. Dad was a rock. He was always there for us and got us through hard times, mom was at his side helping all the way. Though my parents went through many challenges they were always faithfully responsible parents. I think they deserve Heavenly Kudos.

We moved to Tucson around 1960, then to Phoenix for a short time, and settled in Scottsdale, where dad retired from Frito-Lay at age 58. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, when I was a teenager. He wanted to be a better person after his mother died. Unfortunately he didn’t make it into full activity at that time, but with the help of good friends he did, he and mother served 2 missions. One of my sweetest memories was when I was privileged to kneel with them at the Mesa Temple to be sealed to them for time and all eternity.

One of the most amazing acts of love that my mother and father did for my wife and I was to take our severely brain injured child Taj into their home and care for him after his near drowning accident so that I could finish medical school and residency training. They were both the best caregivers you could possibly ask for. They truly loved that little boy. He passed 8 years later and I know they felt lost without him for a while.

Dad was a very honest man, to a fault. He was a great example to me of service. He always stopped to help those who needed help or who were broke down on the side of the road and he was truly a Good Samaritan. I always knew that Dad would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

For a man who had no dad as a role model he did great. Although he only had one child who had children (me), he was blessed with 9 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. 3 of his grandchildren preceded him in death, and I believe they were there to greet him when he passed and give him a hug.

I’m very proud of my father, he served his country honorable. All of us who knew him are better people having known him. Way to go dad! Thank you for your service and example. We love you and will miss you. We look forward to seeing you again.

With love from your Son,
Larry W Nichols




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