Born: November 18, 1948 - Deceased: January 22, 2024
Danny Ray (Dan) Nichols, 75, passed away in Belleville, Illinois on January 22, 2024. Born in Crossville, Tennessee, the only son and youngest child of Edith (Davidson) Nichols and Stanley D Nichols, Dan was the kind of person no one who met him could forget. To say he changed lives would be an understatement, and whether providing for his children, grandchildren, friends and family, co-workers, supervisees, or the recipients of his charity work, Dan was a generous, kind, and loving man, with a forgiving heart who always managed to see the best in everyone.
Dan married his wife, Deborah Nichols, in 1971, being a devoted and loving husband. The two supported each other and were each other’s guideposts, a quietly romantic couple, who still liked to take dates to the movies, go on drives, and hold hands on the beach. His last breaths, taken on the day after their 53rd wedding anniversary, were spent reaching for her hand and trying to say, “I love you.” Dan moved to Centralia in the mid-1980s to work for the Centralia (Morning) Sentinel, where he quickly rose to the position of general manager, and later assistant publisher, taking on big and small tasks in every department. He organized work events like Tomato Tuesday to help raise spirits, and he always lent an ear to a colleague, often lamenting at home that he could not do more. A fellow Sentinel employee mentioned upon hearing of Dan’s death that most people think it is not possible to be both a friend and a manager, but Dan defied expectations. He was a talented and vivid storyteller, making him perfect for the newspaper industry whether writing his newspaper columns, spinning tales of his wild childhood antics, or as best known in his family, for creating imaginary worlds of little boys turning into frogs; singing potatoes, and elaborate plots to catch Santa Claus.
Dan supported his three children in living their dreams, and followed along to piano recitals, band competitions, and basketball games to name a few. Always the dedicated photographer and videographer, he captured and made memories everywhere he went. He celebrated the achievements of others around him and was an empathic shoulder to cry on through hardships. He taught his children to be hard working and self-reliant, while emphasizing the importance of family, forgiveness, and giving back. He never paid for anything he could figure out how to do on his own, and many a project was completed with the aid of his creative ingenuity, intuitive knowledge of how things work, and of course, a YouTube tutorial or two.
He directed his heart not only to family and work, but to his community, assisting in the formation of nonprofit organizations including the Greater Salem Area Foundation and the Centralia Helping Hands Association. He used to say “Everyone could use a helping hand,” and he was humbled to be a part of making change for the better, in whatever capacity he was needed, whether DJ’ing a fundraising public pool party, passing out refreshments, loading or unloading equipment, singing as Elvis Presley, pulling together video memorials of community leaders, or sitting on the Board of Directors. There are probably few people who truly know the extent of his contributions to the community, including organizing musicians to perform at the Centralia Carillon Bell Tower Park, sharing the Three Stooges with a new generation of children at the Can-O-Rama, and being fundamental in the establishment of the Centralia Balloon Fest. He also quietly donated his time to singing for nursing homes in the area at Christmas and giving money to those in need. He was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back, and never tell anyone because the act was not meant for him to receive appreciation.
As a grandfather to six grandchildren, he was active in game playing and teaching sports. He regularly wrapped his grandchildren up in blankets to fly them like Superman and chased them around the yard or house. He dropped everything to be there if they needed him. He loved making a big breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs for his family, and had mountains of silly and special stories that were personalized to each child and his unique relationships with them.
Dan was active, strong, and a quiet calm that could be a force to be reckoned with. He was preceded in death by his mother, father, two sisters (Ann and Sadie), and his best friend Lane; and one can only imagine the laughter of that reunion in Heaven. Dan is survived by his wife Deborah Nichols; three children, Brian Nichols of Livingston, NJ and Melanie and Rebekah Nichols of Belleville, IL; daughter-in-law Lyndal Khaw; six grandchildren: Connor, Maylin, Callan, Smith, Max, and Selene Nichols; and his sister Frances Nichols of Crossville, TN. He will be terribly missed by family and friends, and this world is not as bright without the twinkle of his blue eyes or the smirk in his mouth when he used his contagious sense of humor. And with that in mind, he would want everyone to “Keep laughing [because] as long as you’re laughing you still have hope.” -Moe Howard.
A celebration of Dan’s life will be held at the Best Western Plus in Centralia, IL on February 10th, 2024 from 4:00-6:00 PM. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Centralia Helping Hands Association.