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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Wayne Nichols, it is easy to see that he lived every day to the fullest. He was a longtime resident of the community he loved, and with his strong work ethic and fun-loving personality he was the sort of person everyone seemed to know. Wayne was blessed to share 64 years of his life with his true love, and together he and his sweetheart experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer. Life will never be the same without Wayne here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The 1930s were a memorable time in America as our nation and much of the world were firmly held in the grip of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and things only became all the more dire when a drought covered our nation’s heartland for nearly two years during this time. Despite the trials around them, Clare and Aileen (Graham) Nichols were able to shift their focus on the joy in their hearts as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Wayne Clare on December 5, 1932, in Flint, Michigan. His parents were known as the leaders of “Nick and His Cornhuskers,” a band that played throughout Michigan and whose music was broadcast over WFDF radio in the 1930s.
An only child, Wayne was a typical young boy of his generation. With musicians as parents, he slept in the bass drum box at their performances. As a young boy he traveled with his parents around the state. Their travels continued for a time, but his parents later bought a farm in Corunna near Owosso where they had a crops farm and also raised pigs. Wayne really got into farming and inventing. In fact, if he came across a tool needed for a job that needed fixing he would just invent it! He attended local schools including Owosso High School where he was involved with Future Farmer’s of America where he was recognized for his various inventions. As a teen it has been said that he once ate all the steak while his parents were gone to Florida.
After graduating from high school in 1950, Wayne enlisted in the Air Force. He put in his four years time, serving in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then France before he was discharged.
New and exciting changes were in store for Wayne as a young man when he met the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Alice Whitcomb, and they met at a square dance where his parents were performing. He was five years older than Alice, but that didn’t matter to either of them. As Wayne was preparing to fulfill his military duties, the couple was married on September 22, 1955, in Vernon, Michigan, while Wayne was home on leave. Together they welcomed two children, Laurinda who was born in France in 1957 and Doug who was born in Durand in 1960, into their hearts and home.
It has been said that Wayne was a workaholic. He first worked for Victory Machine in Durand, Michigan, and was then hired by the AC Spark Plug division of General Motors. There, Wayne worked in advanced engineering. Wayne also loved being a farmer, and because of his hard work Alice was able to stay at home and focus her time and attention on their children. Wayne always had dinner right at 5:00 and then went out to work on whatever needed his attention that night. Whether it was broken equipment, building, car restoration, farming or polishing the motorcycle he always had the enthusiasm and energy to complete the task. Then, by dark, it was time for family. He'd say goodnight to his kids and spend time with his wife, Alice of 64 years. Wayne and Alice also modified 3 buildings on their farm into homes that they rented out over the years for additional income.
He was recognized for his development of Yorkshire pigs, which in the end gave farmers more bacon. Wayne invented many things used in the farming industry over the years, and he was also good in marketing. Throughout his career with General Motors he was awarded seven patents, most notably for the Cruise Control System.
Later in life Wayne continued to live life to the fullest. He got into motorcycles when he was in his early 30s, and Alice even had her own bike, modified by Wayne that won the distinction of " best dressed motorcycle" at one of the rallies they attended. Wayne owned everything but a Harley, and he was always on the lookout for a new bike. He could go out on his bike for hours at a time, and he loved going to rallies and on trips. Wayne once asked his granddaughter Jessica if she wanted to look at the dams in Michigan, and after three days they saw them all.
After retiring they bought a big motorhome and custom trailer. For three years they traveled all over the United States and Canada but made sure they were home for Christmas. They spent their winters in Florida for the next 25 years where they lived in 3 different homes one being on a golf course even though Wayne didn’t golf. They moved back to Michigan in 2013 settling in Kalamazoo near their granddaughter Jessica and her family.
Wayne and Alice were always on the go and really loved traveling. They not only toured the United States on the motorcycles but also went back to Europe in 1985 with a motorcycle and visited multiple countries all over again. Many changes were recalled since the late 50's when they lived in France. Alice got him to stop and go through every castle she could the 2nd time around.
There were so many things that made Wayne one of a kind. He was a problem solver who was intuitive, analytical, and generous as he shared his knowledge with others. Wayne was meticulous in everything he did, which was clear with his tools all perfectly lined up in his garage. He was a country music fan, and in addition to his love for motorcycles he loved sports cars and once toured the Porsche factory in Germany. Wayne loved pizza, McDonald’s ice cream, Wendy’s chili, and barbeque ribs. He was forced to slow down some as he suffered with dementia these past few years and finally hung up his keys to his motorcycle at the age of 82.
All who knew Wayne Nichols would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, it was his family that was his greatest source of pride and joy. Generous with his time and talents, Wayne was the sort of person who would help others. He was a motorcycle enthusiast who rode more than 720,000 miles, but all roads always led back home for Wayne. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Wayne Clare Nichols, of Kalamazoo formerly of Flint, age 86, died October 20, 2019, at Brookdale Senior Living, Portage. Wayne’s family includes his wife, Alice; children: Laurinda (Roger) Starke and Douglas Nichols; 3 grandchildren: Jessica (Christopher) LaPorte, Regus Nichols and Katreena Nichols and 5 great-grandchildren: Callie, Riley, Tenley, Cailyn and Mykenzie. Cremation will take place. A celebration of Wayne’s life will be held Saturday 11 a.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Please visit Wayne’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.