February 22, 1926 – July 25, 2021
On July 25, 2021 – at the age of 95 – Grant Harmon Nichols passed away from complications after a fall in his home. He will be deeply missed by his loving, devoted wife of 36 years, Solveig Nichols, his children with his former wife, Doryce Nichols: Darbra in Edmonton, Chris in Victoria, Bruce (Sharon) in Courtenay and Andrea in Mission. Also his stepchildren, Tim (Arlys), Jenifer (Dave) and Tom (Ines) in Dawson Creek, and Scott in Campbell River.
He will be lovingly remembered in the hearts of his grandchildren: Kelly (Will) and Alexis (fiancé Duncan) – (children of Bruce and Sharon), Ciara and Kyle (girlfriend Deborah) – (children of Andrea), Brett and Jase (children of Jenifer), and Briana (Ryan) – (child of Tim and Arlys). His brother Bill Nichols (Connie) of Ontario will also miss his much-loved, older brother.
Grant is predeceased by his mother Velma Crafts Nichols, father Harold Nichols, brother Harold Jr. and his stepsiblings, Helen Lannin, Jim Stewart, Betty Moore and Donna Moore.
Born in Windsor, Ontario, his father died when Dad was five years old. A few years later his mother remarried and the family moved to Sarnia, Ontario and he spent most of his school years there. He owes a great deal to his mother who raised her two sons and four stepchildren with love, kindness, and an unwavering strength that she instilled in all her children.
Dad had a keen interest in flying as a child and designed, flew, and won awards for his model airplanes. A life of adventure in the skies beckoned so in 1943 – at 17-1/2 – he asked his mother to sign an agreement for him to join the Air Force. He was selected for pilot training but remustered to air gunner when the initial pilot training ceased in 1944.
He graduated with a commission in 1945 and was discharged, rejoined in 1947 as a Flight Cadet, received his pilot’s ‘wings’ in 1948 and was recommissioned as a Pilot Officer. He converted from Harvards to the first jet fighter in Canada – the Vampire – was posted to St. Hubert on the first OTU course and joined the 410 (F) Squadron. In 1950 he converted to the F-86 A, Sabre with the USAF. The squadron received the first Canadair built F-86 E’s and moved to North Luffenham U.K.; where at one point he led an aerobatic team.
In 1952 as a Flight Lieutenant, he volunteered for combat duty with the USAF and was posted to Korea in 1953. Upon his return he became the unofficial Officer Commanding 410 (F) Squadron for six months, during the absence of the commander.
Over the ensuing years he had several command and staff positions: promoted to Squadron Leader in 1957, first Station Commander of RCAF Station Stony Mountain on the mid-Canada line, Acting Wing Commander in 1960 as the commander of 433 AW(F) Squadron at North Bay, Ontario and from 1962 to 1965 commanded the first 425 AW(F) Squadron and the 3 AW OTU at Bagotville QC.
Promoted to Group Captain in 1967, he was posted to Mobile Command at St. Hubert as Chief of Tactical Aviation. He initiated action to form 10 Tactical Air Group and become the Base Commander of CFB Comox from 1969 to 1972. From then to 1974 he was the Command Director in the NORAD Command Centre, Colorado Springs, and returned to Canada as the Director General, Operational Resource Coordination at CFHQ in Ottawa.
While there he did a six-month tour as Deputy Commander of the Canadian Contingent to the United Nations Emergency Force Middle East. Colonel Grant Nichols took early retirement in 1976. In 1978 he was divorced and then lived on his own for a number of years.
He had mastered the winds and whims of the sky above him and now learned to master the whims and winds of the sea. He bought a sailboat and became an accomplished sailor, revelling in the challenges and freedom of life on the water. In 1980 he was shipwrecked by a hurricane in Cabo San Lucas (before it was a tourist destination) and spent the ensuing year and a half there rebuilding his boat, the Ayorama.
He sailed back to Comox where he lived on his boat, house-sat for friends on vacation and took family and friends out to experience the beauty of the B.C. coast. In 1985 he met and married the love of his life, Solveig. They built a home in Comox, and she joined him often on his sailing trips – including a memorable one to Hawaii – and they travelled to a number of countries. He helped start the CFB Comox Sailing Club and enjoyed the sailing trips with other members and the social get-togethers.
He kept his mind and body active and fit, skiing and biking well into his 80’s, sailing into his 90’s, and enjoying walks to town and through the forest. He loved music, was an avid reader and kept up with the world but kept closer to the things that mattered to him, a deep appreciation of his life with Solveig, and their families and friends.
In the past few years he was honoured by the people of Korea for his service during the war and brought there twice as part of their appreciation to remember and thank Korean and Allied veterans. Soon after, some medical setbacks slowed his activities but not his outlook on life.
He was a caring, intelligent and accomplished man ready with sage advice, encouragement and support when needed. He lived with purpose and insight in an amazing, full life of 95 years, embracing it all. He will be remembered for the joy of his spirit and the example he set by appreciating his life and loves with honesty and integrity. He was a good man and will be dearly missed by us all.
The family would like to thank the outstanding staff on Ward 3A, Dr. Gregory, and Dr. Dan of the North Island Hospital, Comox Valley for their compassion and exceptional care of our father. Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the many wonderful friends and neighbours for their care and concern throughout Dad’s hospital stay and after he passed.
A Celebration of Life will be held on September 25th at 11 am at the Comox Valley Funeral home but due to Covid restrictions this is by invitation only. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation in memory of Grant Nichols. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You have ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ but we will hold you close in our hearts until we are together once more.
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