JAMES B. NICKELS

DR. JAMES B. NICKELS

May 27, 1931 – March 19, 2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of James Bradley (Jim) Nickels after a courageous battle with an aggressive form of lymphatic cancer. On March 19, 2021, just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday, Jim died peacefully at home with his beloved wife, Hutzi, their children and a grandson by his side.

 

Jim is survived by his long time life partner and wife of 67 years, Hutzi Nickels; children Bret, Scot (Genevieve) & Kristin Nickels; grandchildren Dakota, Riel & Arianne Nickels and his favourite most devoted dog named, Tippy, who sadly misses her master’s voice. The Nickels family members will be having a private ceremony to honour Jim’s memory.

 

If you asked a hundred people who James Bradley Nickels was, they’d all give you a different answer… A university professor by day and a superhero dad by night; The most humble man in the world; a tennis ace; a snake charmer; a psychology researcher; an air Force captain; a falcon whisperer; an explorer; a renaissance man; a comedian; a classic movie buff; a paranormal investigator; a nature enthusiast; a history aficionado; a seeker of truth; a child actor; a wonderful, kind, decent man; a musician; a mentor; an advisor; a caring educator; a loving father; a devoted husband; an adoring grandfather; a unique, generous human being and an empathetic, caring friend. Jim may not have been all of them at the same time, but he was all of them. To his family, he was simply our hero, our champion and our guiding light.

 

Jim was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on May 27, 1931 to father Stewart Nickels and mother Bernice Nickels. An only child, his early years were spent in Waukesha, where he learned about and often dreamed of going to Canada to live. However, instead of Canada, His family trekked west eventually making their home in Los Angeles, California where he attended Harvard Military School where he eventually joined the ROTC. It was in Los Angeles where Jim became interested in birds of prey, eventually joining a falconry association and rehabilitating injured hawks, owls, falcons and eagles. When he wasn’t saving raptures, he tried his hand at being a child actor, but Hollywood wasn’t for him, so he went back to saving injured birds and began the formal education phase of his life – first receiving his B.A. at Occidental college near Glendale. It was in Los Angeles that he met the love of his life, Hildegard Spitz, better known as Hutzi, who’s father was the famed trainer of Toto in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. They married on June 18, 1953 and eventually made their way to Columbia Missouri, where Jim went back to university and attained his Masters and PhD in psychology. During that time, they welcomed two sons, Bret and Scot. The family then moved to Rome, New York in 1959, when Jim entered the air force and rose to the rank of captain before picking up the family once again and moving to Reno, Nevada where Jim took a position as a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada and started Reno’s first Suicide Prevention Centre. The family eventually settled on a six-acre ranch outside the city with plenty of room for horses, dogs, cats, eagles, falcons, an owl, a sparrow hawk and a pet boa constrictor, named Herman. The family spent many a day four-wheeling in the sparsely populated backcountry deserts of Nevada, often getting stuck, with Jim having to hike sometimes dozens of miles to get help. It was during these years that the family welcomed a daughter who they named Kristin in 1964. Then, in 1967, the five-member Nickels family (including dog, cat and Herman, the boa constrictor) moved once again and Jim finally attained his dream of living in Canada when he accepted a professorship in psychology at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Jim immersed himself in his teaching, research and service duties and was the inspiration in creating and nurturing the university’s Psychological Service Centre. Jim was always an avid traveler and during his summer breaks, he would take the family on extended vacations through his adopted land – exploring the historical and scenic landmarks from the Yukon to Newfoundland and all points in between. He also took up a number of outdoor pursuits including rollerblading, kayaking, canoeing, hiking or bicycle riding with friends, family and colleagues and also became an expert sailor. Jim was celebrated for writing songs and poems for people’s birthdays and other special events and even found time to help create and nurture a movie group who watched classic movies followed by discussions and analysis. Jim loved films and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of the Movie Group, which met monthly for over 24 years. During this time, Jim became a Canadian citizen – something he had always dreamt of doing. After his retirement in 2004 at the age of 73, Jim could still be seen rollerblading throughout Winnipeg or being pulled in a sulky cart around the streets of Fort Richmond by his beloved dog Sybil and spent much of his later years visiting with his grandchildren and telling stories of his varied and exciting life - a life full of exploration, thrills and countless adventures. Those stories of his many exploits, told at the dinner table, around a campfire or just before bedtime, will surely be missed.

      

Always in our minds and forever in our hearts

 

We would like to thank all those family and friends who sent words, good wishes, food and flowers, as well as our daughter in law Genevieve D’Amours, who made it possible for her husband, our son, to be with us for an extended period of time. We particularly embrace extended family members, Grace and Heart Harland, as well as, Carol and Murray MacKay, Deb Gural and family, Alice Wong, Linda Love and family (Resto Gare), Pat and Rob Hill, June Stewart, and Pat Saper for their love and assistance.  A special thanks to nurse practitioner, Celina Jemenez and Dr. Cooke of Cancer Care, HSC, for their expertise, dedication and bedside manner.  All doctors should be like them.

In lieu of flowers, donations in James’ memory to Manitoba Animal Alliance or Manitoba Great Pyrenees Rescue or an organization of your choice are greatly appreciated.

In keeping with his wishes, cremation has taken place. James' family kindly requests that his colleagues, students, friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by watching the photo-biography above. Please, also consider sharing your own photos and/or sharing your own memories and stories using the comment section on this page.

Tears of Grace, song credits: Music by Riel Nickels, Guitar and Vocals by Riel Nickels, Words by Riel and Scot Nickels.  Recorded on Riel’s iPhone.

 

Tears of Grace

Riel and Scot Nickels, March, 2021

 

Can you write me a song

To this here melody

Can you make it strong

To set my spirit free

 

Will it give me wings to fly

Can it take away the pain

Never needing to go so high

Never meaning to complain

 

Don't you worry my son

Ignore my face

For I have them too

Tears of grace

 

I can feel you so close   

I may not make a sound  

You have given me the most  

I will always be around  

 

I can see your teary eyes

I can feel your sorrow

Through the darkness comes the light

And a beautiful tomorrow

 

Don’t you worry pa

You have taught me well

Don’t you worry pa

This ain’t no farewell

Don’t you worry pa

You have taught me well

Don’t you worry pa

This ain’t no farewell

 

Don't you worry my son

Ignore my face

For I have them too

Tears of grace

 

Can you write me a song

To this here melody

Can you make it strong

To set my spirit free

 

Don't you worry my son

Ignore my face
For I have them too

Tears of grace

 

Don't you worry my son

Ignore my face
For I have them too

Tears of grace

ETHICAL DEATH CARE

Cremation & Life Celebrations

530 St, Mary Avenue - Winnipeg

204-421-5501 - www.ethicaldeathcare.com

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