Life Story / Obituary
Bill Nichols of Schoolcraft, passed away June 25, 2018 at age 79. He was born December 17, 1938, the son of the late Harold and Lillian (Fehlberg) Nichols. He is survived by his wife, Sheila, of 47 years; his sister and brother-in-law, Beverly and David Hamman; his brother and wife, Bob Nichols and Terry Furst; 12 nieces and nephews; and numerous great nieces and nephews.
Bill was a 1956 graduate of Schoolcraft High School, attended Western Michigan University, and was a graduate of Coyne Electrical & Radio School in Chicago. On March 27, 1971, Bill married Sheila McGrew in her hometown of Paw Paw. He built their colonial home. Bill worked as a Central Office Technician for General Telephone Company (GTE) for 27 years, retiring in 1991 when it was Verizon.
Growing up, Bill enjoyed traveling with his family in 48 states and hiking in the National Parks. Bill was one of those hidden gems, avoiding attention, preferring to pursue his interests and hobbies quietly on his own terms. These projects included building and flying a glider, a gyroglider, and model airplanes with gas engines. Bill had a life long interest in astronomy. He designed and built an anit-gravity machine. He wrote an article in the General Science Journal, "Gravity: A Different View". Bill was also a ham radio operator.
Bill built three trimaran sailboats. The last one was 33 feet long and 24 feet wide. Bill and Sheila sailed from South Haven in 1991. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1992, stopping to explore the Azores, Portugal, Spain on their way to Gibraltar. They used a sextant, taking sun sites at noon on calm, sunny days to keep in practice in case the GPS failed. They sailed back across the ocean to the Caribbean. Bill decided he would like to try single handed sailing from Puerto Rico to New York. Sheila met him at the Hudson River to help get through the 37 locks and 77 bridges on the Erie Canal. Upon their return in 1993, they had traveled 15,000 nautical miles following the route of Christopher Columbus in reverse to celebrate the 500 year anniversary. They gave many talks about their voyage.
Among other various adventures, Bill made solo bicycle trips from Michigan to the East coast (1108 miles), and to the West Coast (2500 miles). He and Sheila pedaled their bikes from home to New Orleans (1140 miles). Bill's last cross-country trip was on a tandem bike to Washington State with his wife, Sheila. After 800 miles, due to medical concerns, Sheila had to abort the trip, so Bill completed the trip on his own.
Throughout his life, Bill loved trains. In his basement, he built a large model train layout representing Boston and Maine during the late summer of 1954. He conducted many operating sessions requiring 8-12 people to run the trains. Bill wanted more room for his trains, so he built an addition to the house, which inspired him to create a free-standing spiral staircase modeled after the one in the Loretta Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Bill was an artist. Besides painting the backdrops on the train layout, he did pencil drawings, charcoals, and a dozen pastel pictures that the family treasures. He painted murals of early New England in his house and the family's 1839 farmhouse.
In addition to creating wainscoting in both homes, Bill meticulously-built arched doorways in both houses using hundreds of individually crafted wood pieces. Bill acquired maple flooring from the 19th Century Schoolcraft School and installed it in his house. He enjoyed restoring antiques and repairing grandfather clocks.
Bill was a member to the Friendship Force of Western Michigan, the Schoolcraft Historical Society, the Three Rivers C.A.R. Club, the Tin Lizzie Travelers, and the United Methodist Church of Schoolcraft. Bill followed the Golden Rule. He was always there for those who needed his help, commenting that were it not for fate, their positions could have been reversed. As his Parkinson's Disease progressed, Bill was comfortable moving to the next stage. Though quiet, Bill was a huge presence in the lives of family and friends. He was loved and will be missed.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 28th at 11am at the Schoolcraft Methodist Church. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at the church beginning at 10am.
Please visit Bill’s webpage at www.mccowensecord.com where you can read his obituary, sign the guestbook, and share a memory. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Schoolcraft Historical Society and Schoolcraft United Methodist Church.
Arrangements have been made by McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, 409 S. Main, Vicksburg (269-649-1697).