J. Alden Nichols

February 28, 1919 - June 28, 2014

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J. Alden “Nick” Nichols, 95, of Champaign passed away peacefully Saturday night (June 28, 2014) at home, surrounded by his loved ones.

He had been living with his daughter-in-law, Sandra, and two of her sons, Paul and Michael, since 2011, when he broke his hip. His son, David, preceded him in death (2007), as did his wife, Barbara Tuttle Nichols (1975).

He is survived by his daughter, Cathy Thompson of Appleton, Wis., her son, Julian Boardman, his wife Amanda, and their children, Selena Sanchez and Harrison Boardman, also of Appleton, Wis. Also surviving are David and Sandra’s children, Matthew of Champaign; Mary (Adam) Parod, their daughter Naomi, and her preborn sibling of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Amy (Matthew) Fotzler of Champaign; Paul and Michael Nichols of Champaign. Nick’s daughter, Margaret Nichols of Ithaca, N.Y., also survives.

He was born John Alden Nichols on Feb. 28, 1919, at Westerly, R.I., the son of Thomas and Jennie Nichols. They and his two sisters, Althea Nichols and Lydia Crutchley, as well as his brother, Thomas, preceded him in death.

Nick got his B.A. in history at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Then World War II intervened. Since he was a Friend (Quaker), he became a Conscientious Objector. He held various positions in the Civilian Public Service Camp. He was a forest firefighter in Petersham, Mass., for under one year; then he transferred to Coleville, Calif., where he planted trees.

He transferred again, looking for a job with people, this time back east to New Jersey where he spent a year-and-a-half teaching music in an institution for the mentally challenged. From there, he volunteered to be a medical guinea pig at Yale (New Haven, Conn.), where he met his future wife, Barbara Tuttle, who was in the nursing school there.

In December 1945, after The War had ended, he resumed his education, using a fellowship that Columbia University (New York City) had granted him before The War took precedence. A few months later, on June 8, 1946, he and Barbara married. He eventually got his M.A. and Ph.D.

In 1948, he got his first paying job at Wesleyan, which he kept for two years, followed by one year teaching at Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), where he’d gotten a Ford Fellowship. Eight years at Ginn and Company publishers came next.

In 1958 his dissertation, "Germany After Bismarck," was published by Harvard Press. He went back to Wesleyan, where he was managing editor of Daedalus, their literary journal.

Then in 1961, Nick came to the University of Illinois as associate professor of European history. He spent 1963-64 in Germany under a Fulbright Fellowship, to do research for his next book. He was promoted to full professor in 1967.

Nick took a sabbatical to Germany in the early 1980s to do research for his next book. While there, he was a frequent guest at the Bismarck Residence, a friendship which would continue for decades. "The Year of the Three Kaisers" was published in 1987.

Toward the end of his career, he created a new lecture course on Romanticism, which incorporated the music, art and literature of that period. He retired in 1989 at age 70.

Nick had many hobbies and was a member of many clubs. He enjoyed playing piano and organ. After his wife died, he found he enjoyed cooking as well.

He was a member of a Record Group, in which each person in turn tried to stump the others on who the composer was or the date of composition. He sang in the Oratorio Society and held season tickets at Krannert for “The Classical Mix” and “Great Hall Series.”

He enjoyed ballet and orchestra performances at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., during the summers, when he lived at his summer home in Dorset, Vt. He also attended plays at the Dorset Play House.

He was a member of the Chicago Art Institute and would go to exhibitions there each year. He was a member of The Philosophy Club on campus.

He would meet with fellow retired History Department people and friends each month for a luncheon get-together. Two days after the June luncheon, he had a stroke. Two weeks later, he died of congestive heart failure. He enjoyed listening to WILL-FM’s classical music right to the end.

Nick will be cremated and buried with his son, David, in St. Mary’s Cemetery (Champaign). A memorial service will be held in a month or so.

Memorials may be made to WILL Radio or to Carle Hospice