Rest in peace, Dad

The last couple of days have been a blur. Tuesday I was in San Diego attending an afternoon Board meeting when I received the call informing me that my Dad had passed away. Even though I knew it was coming, it rocked my world. Ten hours later I was in Louisville, and after a short rest took off with my brothers for the three hour journey to Ashland, Dad’s home. Yesterday we worked through a detailed checklist and made all the arrangements for what should be a traditional, respectful set of memorial services. Today is the first time I’ve had to sit quietly and think about it all. Just hard to believe that he’s gone. Here’s the obituary I wrote for him – it will be published in the Ashland Daily Independent on Friday. The picture above is Dad and his four sons at Dad and Phyllis’ wedding in 1999.


Donald Eugene Nichols

1935 – 2022

Donald Eugene Nichols of Ashland, Kentucky, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed peacefully on the 23rd day of August 2022. He will be missed and remembered.

Born in Ashland, KY on July 26, 1935, Don was the youngest child of the late John Nichols and Vada McPeek Nichols, who were married in 1908. John and Vada resided in a flood-prone area of east Ashland between the railroad and the Ohio River for over 75 years and raised eight children. Don was the last of his siblings to pass on.

Don is survived by his wife Phyllis A. Nichols of Russell KY, and four sons: Jeff (Kathryn) Nichols of Fallbrook, CA; Donald (Jill) Nichols Jr. of Cleveland, TN; John Michael Nichols of Lexington, KY; and Mark (Deeanne) Nichols of Louisville, KY. He is also preceded in death by his beloved first wife Susan Bates Nichols.

He was the proud grandparent of seven grandchildren, Emily (Greg) Monsma of Louisville, KY; Chase (Katie) Nichols of Lexington, KY; Corey (Mary) Nichols of Frankfort, KY; Steven Nichols of Pleasant View, TN; Ben (Nicole) Nichols of Palm Harbor, FL; Matt Maher of Atlanta, GA; and Brian Nichols of Cleveland, TN.

Don was also the loving grandfather of seven great-grandchildren: Hudson and Jessamine Monsma, Emerson Nichols, Isabell Burkybile, Kendall Nichols, and Asher and Silas Nichols. Additionally, he is survived by a host of nieces and nephews. 

Don started working to support himself at the age of twelve. Hard work and self-sufficiency were central to Don’s life and values. He was a graduate of Paul Blazer High School and went immediately from there to a mechanic’s job at Armco Steel in Ashland, a job he would hold for 30 years. He worked two or three jobs simultaneously during much of the 1970s and 1980s to support his family. One of his second jobs became his second career, a real estate agent and realtor. He loved selling real estate and became successful in that career.

He and his wife Susan (Susie) Bates Nichols were married in 1955, shortly after Susie’s high school graduation. During the next 27 years he and Susie would raise and support four sons from their home in Boyd County. Susie died at the young age of forty-six after a long illness, a great loss to Don, the family, and the community. Don and Susie were faithful members of the Rose Hill Baptist church in Ashland, where Don was a deacon and a pillar of the church, serving in many capacities.

After the death of his wife Susie in 1982, Don spent some years in California with his sons Jeff and Mark. In California he worked as a mechanic for General Dynamics – hard work was always his trademark. In 1996, he returned to Ashland and later met Phyllis Dials, a high-school classmate who, like Don, had lost a spouse prematurely. Don and Phyllis were married in 1999 and lived happily in Coal Grove, OH until 2020, and then at Morningpointe assisted living in Russell, KY. During their marriage Don and Phyllis were able to travel to places including Hawaii, England, Scotland, and visit their relatives in many states.

Don’s great passions in life were his family, his work, Kentucky basketball, collecting coins, and his Christian faith. He was an avid reader and was infinitely curious about the world around him. Even at the end of his life, he would talk with his sons about the mysteries and beauty of this world.

Visitation will be held at Steen Funeral Homes 13th Street Chapel located at 3409 13th Street in Ashland, KY on Sunday, August 28th from 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM.

Funeral services will be held at the First Baptist Church of Russell on Monday August 29th at 1:00 PM, with the Reverend Ken Gowin officiating. Burial will follow at Golden Oaks Memorial Park in Ashland, KY. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made in Don’s memory to the American Cancer Society. 

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