By Teri L. Hansen
Richard "Dick" Nichols passed away Thursday at the age of 92. Nichols was an active resident of McPherson for many years and will be remembered fondly throughout the community.
“I’m extremely saddened former Congressman Dick Nichols has passed away. In every role he took on—son, husband, father, grandfather, soldier, businessman, Congressman, community leader and friend," U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said. "Dick put service to others above self. It has been a privilege to call him a friend and mentor throughout his life and I will miss his steady counsel. Please keep Dick and his family in your prayers."
When he was born in Fort Scott on April 29, 1926, his parents Olive and Ralph Nichols, may not have known just what was in store for their son. He would later on become an influential and respected resident of Kansas.
“Dick was a friend to all, I don’t think there was anybody he disliked. He was a great organizer of people, he could put the right people in the right places and empower them to get the job done,” Paul Ediger, a resident of McPherson and friend of Richard Nichols reminisced. “He was a true statesman. He cared about what was best for the people, the state and the country. he was a real gentleman and it was a pleasure to serve with him.”
He served in the U.S. Navy and was an accomplished academic. He attended both Kansas University and Kansas State University as well as Notre Dame and Park College, Missouri. He acquired degrees in agricultural economics and technical journalism.
Nichols lived a life full of trials, errors, successes and adventure. In 1951 he married Constance "Connie" Weinbrenner in Hutchinson. They were blessed with three children, Philip, Ronald and Anita.
“Dick’s life was blessed in many ways, but he knew tragedy as much as any man or woman,” Dr. Tyler Hughes, mused. Hughes practiced medicine in McPherson and knew Dick Nichols for years. “Those times made him sad, but they never defeated his amazingly ingrained optimism and sense of community which led him to serve others.”
The Nichols were attacked at the Staten Island Ferry, by a Cuban refugee in 1986. They were visiting the Statue of Liberty as they had donated money towards its restoration when they were both stabbed by the homeless man.
Nichols received a visit from New York Mayor Ed Koch who apologized on behalf of the city for the incident. Nichols stopped the mayor saying no apology was necessary as it could have happened anywhere.
"And I always also remember that he was invited to The Johnny Carson Show to tell his story of the Kansan at the Statue of Liberty and his experiences in New York City," Moran said in a speech he gave in 2013. "But even during that particular event and what he said on the talk show and what he told Mayor Koch was that he always looked for the best in every person and in every situation."
Connie passed away in 1994 of cancer. He then met Linda Hupp and married her in 1996. Their family expanded to include Linda's children Kathryn and Douglas.
“On one of our first dates, we drove to where he liked to park and it was full so he said ‘no problem, I’ll drive around the block and we’ll come back and it will be available,’ and it was. I thought he was so naive with his positive nature,” Linda Nichols told the Sentinel in April of 2016. “It was so bizarre because it was so unlikely that these things would happen, and I was wrong. Those are the kind of people that can make things happen."
It was in 1969 that Nichols moved to McPherson where he became president of Home State Bank & Trust Co. Then in 1990 that he was elected to the U.S. Congress as a congressman of the 5th District. He was a republican who served a single term before reapportionment eliminated the Fifth District in the House of Representatives.
"In McPherson, there are few people more loved and respected than Dick Nichols, and it’s a privilege for me to be able to call him a friend and mentor," Moran said. "When I initially ran for Congress and needed advice about his community and his county, he was the first person I reached out (to), and I always remember as I was campaigning for the very first time for office to Congress, I had people tell me, 'if you’re a friend of Dick Nichols, you’re a friend of mine." And it’s an opportunity that we all ought to take to remember that how we conduct ourselves influences and affects so many others."
A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. March 19, at the First United Methodist Church, McPherson. With a celebration of life service at 11 a.m. on March 20 at the First United Methodist Church, McPherson with the Rev. Karen Rice-Ratzlaff officiating.
The final resting place will be at the McPherson Cemetery with military honors presented by members of the American Legion Post 24 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2715 both of McPherson.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First United Methodist Church or Camp Wood and they can be sent in care of the Glidden - Ediger Funeral Home; 222 West Euclid Street; McPherson, Kansas.
Richard Nichols will be remembered in the community for his various contributions and activities, but one thing that will be remembered by most everyone is that he never met a stranger.
“It broadens your horizons and your knowledge of how to get along with other people. When you have a problem, it would be good to first ask others in the group what they think because chances are you’ll learn more from their good ideas,” Richard Nichols said to the Sentinel in 2016. “All of life is getting along with people. Good things would happen when you reach out, and you have to be open to it.“