Known for her desire to seek out the fun in life while remaining true to her sometimes stubborn side, Freida Irene Nichols lived to tell about all about her adventures in 98 remarkable years. Though we are sad to say farewell to such a good soul, we can find comfort in the memories of the amazing times we were able to share with her in this life.
Just before the decade of the twenties began, the year of 1919 had a lot to accomplish. This was the year in which the beginnings of the prohibition became a reality, and day-light saving time helped make the days even longer! One could now make a phone call without the help of an operator due to the invention of the rotary dial phone. Women were then able to spread the news of Congress passing the 19th Amendment guaranteeing their right to vote. The United States Congress was busy, as it also established the Grand Canyon National Park which marked one of the earliest successes of the environmental conservation movement. This was all news one might have listened to while they waited for their morning toast from the newest kitchen craze known as the pop-up toaster!
Meanwhile, in Huntington, Indiana, Clarence Harrison and Ethel Mae (Reiger) Miller were excitedly expecting a precious baby. Freida Irene made her debut in life on January 22, 1919. From early on, though her first name was Freida, she was known as Irene. She spent her childhood, along with her six brothers and 5 sisters, in a house on Broadway Street. The walls in their home witnessed grand amounts of happy chaos and a few sibling squabbles throughout their growing years together.
With such a large family, there was hardly a time in which Irene was bored. She kept busy experimenting with cooking in the kitchen and practicing her sewing skills when she was not playing outside. Many days were spent rolling along on her skates in the warm sunshine. She even decided to participate in the Indiana State Fair at a young age.
As she matured into a young lady, she graduated from Huntington High School with the class of 1937. Upon receiving her diploma, she obtained a job working at Blue Bell Jean Factory in Columbia City. Though she had more responsibilities as a young adult, she never let the spirited kid within go because she still found great joy putting roller skates on her feet! As fate would have it, she rolled circles with a young man who was to become her future husband at the Happy Valley skating rink in Columbia City. Ralph Nichols took her heart in his hand and never let go. They exchanged wedding vows on March 19, 1949.
The newlyweds settled into married life and prepared themselves to take on the next adventure together - parenthood! Before long, they welcomed three beautiful girls into their family, Karen, Jeanne, and Diane. Irene naturally took to motherhood. She used her experience in sewing to make clothes for all three of her daughters and sometimes even for herself. Her family enjoyed the time Irene spent in the kitchen preparing delicious meals - many of which included ingredients straight from the family's vegetable garden. What Irene was not able to use right away, she always harvested and canned to savor the taste of summer in the cold winter months. She took great pride in her cooking and loved to make her family their favorites which included potato rivals, potato soup, her homemade gravy or spaghetti dinners. She savored the time she spent with her family, as they were at the center of her heart.
When Irene was not tending to her family or her home, her spiritual side found solace as a member of Thorncreek Bethel Church of God. She was also involved in the Eagles, Moose and VFW, as well as a charter member of Thorncreek Fire Department and their Auxiliary.
Irene's loved ones were her support when she was forced to endure the loss of her husband in 1988. He had been on the Thorncreek Fire Department, and his passing made for a difficult time for many. Irene held the memories she and Ralph shared close to her heart which spanned almost four decades.
As the beauty of life and time marched on, Irene was blessed with a bounty of grandchildren. Beginning with 9 grandchildren, continuing the legacy with 15 great-grandchildren, and looking to the future with one great-great-grandson, each and every one of them made her heart grow with more and more love for her family.
Sadly, we are now forced to say goodbye to Irene. The joy she found in the simplicities of life were admirable and meaningful; playing Bingo with friends, tending to her flower garden while humming along to gospel music, or merely settling in for a craft or two, Irene leaves behind a full life. In the comforts of home and surrounded by the spirits of loved ones, Irene passed away on Friday, May 12, 2017, at 10:45 a.m. We will miss her presence in our lives, but we will never forget her.
Survivors include her daughters, Jeanne Simmons, of Columbia City, Karen (John) Sheets, of Etna and Diane (Richard) Claypool, of Merriam; sister, Mary Boyd, of Huntington; nine grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband; six brothers; and four sisters.
Visitation is 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at DeMoney-Grimes, a Life Story Funeral Home, 600 Countryside Drive, Columbia City. Funeral services are 11 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home with Certified Funeral Celebrant Sharon Brockhaus officiating. Burial will follow at South Park (Annex) Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be given in Irene’s memory towards her final expenses, I.C.O. DeMoney-Grimes. Visit www.demoneygrimes.com to send family condolences or sign the guest register book.