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Roland D. Nichols

August 27, 1919 January 11, 2008
Roland D. Nichols
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Obituary for Roland D. Nichols

Roland D. Nichols, 88, passed away on Friday, January 11, 2008, at his home in Eau Claire, WI. He was born August 27, 1919 in Giard, Iowa, to Clarence and Bessie (Lee) Nichols. While still a child, his family moved to northwestern Wisconsin where they worked their own dairy farm. He attended Milltown High School where he enjoyed playing football. His success as halfback was greatly due to his tremendous running speed. His 100-yard-dash time was later officially clocked at 9.6 seconds. He graduated from High School in June, 1937. He graduated from Polk County Normal school (a school for teachers) in June 1939 and subsequently taught at the Evergreen School, a rural one-room school-house in Polk County until he enlisted in the Air Force on April 29, 1942. He graduated 3rd in his class of Aviation Cadets and in April, 1943, received his pilot wings and a Commission as an Air Force Officer. Due to his exceptional proficiency in Air Gunnery, he was selected to serve as a Flight/Gunnery Instructor. He served with the South East Training Command during World War II. Later, he volunteered and served with the 51st Fighter Group during the Korean War, flying numerous combat missions in the F-80 Shooting Star. His overseas assignments included Japan, Okinawa as well as Korea. His tours of duty in the continental United States included Griffiss Air Force Base and Stewart Air Force Base, both in New York; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona and Ohio State University (where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1960, graduating summa cum laude, and a Master’s Degree in Geography, in 1962). He retired from the Air Force at the Duluth Air Defense Sector, Duluth, Minnesota, at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on April 30, 1963. His decorations included 3 Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Distinguished Unit Citation, United Nations Service Medal, and many others. After retiring from the Air Force, he went back to school and earned his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1968. He returned to his first love - teaching and began his second career as a University Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where he also served as Department Chairman. He was best known for his classes on Far East Asian Cultural Geography and Outdoor Recreation. His students will always remember his sense of humor and his sincere dedication to their educational development. He retired from UWEC in 1986. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. He loved to hunt ruffed grouse, woodcock and whitetail deer, which he did nearly every year he was not overseas with the Air Force. He was also known to hunt moose and black bear in Canada. He fished many a lake in northwestern Wisconsin and, while able, took summer fishing trips to Ontario, Canada. He loved the taste of fresh Northern Pike and raw-fried potatoes cooked over a campfire. He also excelled as a wildlife and wildflower photographer and enjoyed creative writing, both poetry and prose. He is preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Bessie Nichols; three brothers, LaVerne, Don and Harry; a sister, Doris Johansen; a grandson, Nikko Savides; and two excellent bird dogs, Suki and Ginger. He is survived by his loving and caring wife, Leone and his devoted dog, Taz; two sons, Steven of Waco, Texas, and Mark of Pickerington, Ohio; two daughters, Diane Thompson of Atlanta, Georgia, and Debra Savides of Paris, Michigan; as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is also survived by a sister-in-law, Janet Nichols of Frederic, Wisconsin; two nieces, Shirley Schilling of Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, and Kay Hammes of White Bear Lake, Minnesota; as well as his former wife and mother of his four children, Louise Nichols of Big Rapids, Michigan. Funeral services are being held at the Trade Lake Baptist Church in Trade Lake Township, Wisconsin, on Thursday, January 17th at 11:00 AM. Internment will follow at the nearby Union Cemetery. Visitation will be at the Rowe Funeral Home in Frederic, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, January 16th from 4:00 – 7:00 PM. A visitation will also be held one hour prior to the service at the church on Thursday. The Rowe Funeral Home of Frederic, Wisconsin, is entrusted with the funeral arrangements.

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