Wallace “Wally” Joseph Nichols, Jr., left a legacy for his family, friends and community.
The town’s fifth mayor, Nichols died Friday, April 22, after falling outside his home in Fountain Hills and suffering a traumatic brain injury. He died following surgery.
Nichols and his wife of 52 years, Sheila, moved to Fountain Hills in 1991. From the time they moved to the community until his death, Nichols was involved in numerous projects and activities.
At a time that Fountain Hills was undergoing serious turmoil, Nichols was asked to run for mayor. Nichols didn’t consider himself political but, when he was elected, he dedicated himself to creating an environment that would turn the town around.
Nichols’ professional life in human resources would serve him well in his role of mayor. He had been retired for several years when he ran but, in his retirement, he was hardly idle.
Nichols was involved in Noon Kiwanis, Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, Fountain Hills Theater, Fountain Hills Activity Center, the Civic and Cultural Association, Fountain Hills Historical Society, the Library Association and the Republican Club. He also was active in his church, Harvest Bible Chapel. He also had been involved with Four Peaks Community Church.
Nichols’ son, Wallace J. “Jay” Nichols, III, said his father knew how to create win-win solutions.
“He was the kind of guy who had your back,” Jay said.
“He believed in teamwork, and he knew how to form a team.”
Nichols was heavily involved in his family, his community, his career, and his values were present on every front.
“Wally was a very giving person,” wife Sheila said.
“He would pay for strangers’ meals at a restaurant. He did a lot for people without them ever knowing who did. He didn’t want the credit. He loved to give.”
Nichols was remembered by Fountain Hills Mayor Linda Kavanagh for his contributions to the community.
“With the passing of Wally Nichols, the Town of Fountain Hills has lost a part of its heart and soul. Mayor Nichols played a very important role in the town’s history. His contributions to the political, civic, youth service and cultural fields were monumental and helped make Fountain Hills the great place that it is to live in today. He will be dearly missed.”
His giving spirit was recognized by another Fountain Hills mayor, Jay Schlum.
“He was my mentor,” Schlum said.
“His generosity to me, to his friends, his community, is what stands out. He helped me immensely in my time with the town. He encouraged me to run for town council, and he was active in helping me be elected mayor.”
Schlum said Nichols was generous with his time, his money and his mind.
“He was the kind of person who instilled in others a sense that it was important to try and make a difference,” Schlum said.
“He didn’t believe in partisanship. He believed in people being their best selves. Wally was always his best self.”
Former U.S. Representative Harry E. Mitchell recognized Nichols in an online post at capitolwords.org.
Part of his tribute to Nichols stated, “Mayor Nichols has exemplified the leadership, dedication and insight that constitute a great public servant.”
Within that post, Mitchell listed the activities, organizations, positions, boards and other involvements in which Nichols was involved.
One of the closest activities to his heart was helping establish the Fountain Hills Boys & Girls Club. So beloved by Nichols, the board of directors there offered to hold Nichols’ celebration of life in their auditorium. The event will be held Saturday, May 14, at 3 p.m.
Mitchell said Nichols’ support of the Boys & Girls Club began on the advisory committee in Fountain Hills. He headed the Four Peaks Branch fundraising campaign.
Nichols’ family is a reflection of their husband, father and grandfather. All have great senses of humor, and they easily remembered funny things he did. But what they remembered most were the quiet ways he taught them to do their best.
Son Jay described a framed letter his father had written to his parents when he was a sophomore at Mount Herman, a Massachusetts prep school.
“He typed this wonderful, newsy letter to his parents, talking about the radio station he was listening to at school, about the hard work he was having to do washing pots and pans, a detailed description of lunch that day.”
But what impressed his son most was that the young Wally told his parents how much he loved his family and how much he valued his education.
“Those values are instilled in all of us,” Jay said.
“He gave us a great legacy.”
Nichols was born Dec. 31, 1939, to Grace and Wallace J. Nichols, Sr., and a sister Valerie Grace Nichols Ryan.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Sheila; son, Wallace J., III, and his wife Dana and their children, Wallace Grayce Nichols IV and Julia Frances of Carmel, Calif.; and son, John, and his wife Amy and their children Jake and Anna, of Fountain Hills.
The Nichols also fostered four girls, hosted foreign exchange students from around the world and took in “anyone who needed a place to be,” said Jay.
“Our house was the house everybody came to,” he said.
“Nobody would be alone on the holidays when we were around.”