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Ronald D. Nicholson, age 93, of Litchfield died on October 4, 2020, at his home. A public graveside service will be held at 1:45 PM on Friday, October 9, 2020, at the Ripley Cemetery. Military honors will be provided by the Litchfield Military Honor Guard. During the service at the cemetery it will be important to adhere to the social distancing guidelines. A livestream of the private family service will be available at 1:00 PM on Friday.
Ronald Denning Nicholson was born January 29, 1927, the fourth of seven children of Maurice and Cora Nicholson in Lynd, Minnesota. Growing up during the depression meant moving for work and as a result, Ron lived in seven different towns in southwestern Minnesota during his school years. He was active in school activities including football, basketball, band and class plays. Prior to his senior year, he moved to Russell where he worked for his father 3 days a week, attended school 3 days a week and was asked to be the player-coach of the basketball team.
After graduation in 1944, Ron enlisted in the Navy at age 17 for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. Their ship (USS Wasp) shot down the last kamikaze pilot of World War II, before the pilot could fly down their smoke stack.
After being discharged, the superintendent from Lynd, an important mentor, recommended that he attend the St. Cloud Teachers College under the GI Bill. His first year at college, 150 guys slept in the gym, when they didn’t have dorm rooms for all the GIs. While at college, mutual friends asked him to be a card partner with Gladys Rud and they became life partners for over 71 years after being married on August 6, 1949. In college, Ron played varsity football, starting out as the 7th string halfback. When the top two fullbacks were injured, they asked Ron if he wanted to start at fullback. He agreed and became a 165 pound fullback.
After graduating from college, Ron and Glad taught in Kelliher, Minnesota for 3 years where he was the only coach for all the sports, and also the cheerleading advisor. They moved to Belgrade, Minnesota where he taught and coached for 5 years. His next teaching assignment was in Spring Valley, Minnesota, for 12 years. While in Spring Valley, he got his Masters’ degree in school counseling and became the school counselor. In 1969, he accepted an offer to become a school counselor in Litchfield. He retired in 1983 from the school system, and began a new career as a representative for Lutheran Brotherhood where he worked for 6 years before retiring.
He was an active member of the Litchfield Lions Club for 47 years, receiving the Melvin Jones award and was named the Litchfield Lion of the Year in 2018. He was an active member of Zion Lutheran Church and a member of the Litchfield Area Male Chorus for many years.
After retiring from Lutheran Brotherhood, Ron immersed himself in many fundraising opportunities. For the National MS Society, he participated for 30 years in biking and walking events, logging over 2500 miles in total. His first ride at age 62 was solo and for many years he had his Saggin’ Dragons team helping to raise funds. Another favorite fundraising cause was the Relay for Life, after surviving cancer the first time. At age 91, he pledged to walk at least 9100 steps for the Relay and exceeded his goal. In addition, he started a MS support group in Litchfield, organized the first bike trails committee and oversaw the designation of the existing bike trails in Litchfield, was one of the original officers for the Little Red Schoolhouse and was an ombudsman for Augustana Homes. Other honors include a Meeker County Outstanding Senior Citizen award, a Watercade Aquatennial Commodore’s award and an honorary Paul Harris Fellowship award from the Litchfield Rotary club for his volunteer work. He was inducted into the Litchfield Blues Hall of Fame for his part in starting the town baseball team.
An avid gardener, Ron served as the organizer of the Litchfield community gardens for many years. He enjoyed following many sports at different levels, including the local high school teams. He had his spot in the back row of the bleachers at boys and girls basketball games for years. He was proud of the sweatshirt given to him by a senior girls’ basketball player, saying he was her #1 fan.
Ron is survived by his wife, Gladys, sons Mark (Diane) and Paul (Mary), grandchildren Anna (special friend Aaron Harwood), Troy, Travis (Susan), Tricia and Jacob, great grandchildren Elaina and Donovan and brother Jack (Pat). He was preceded in death by siblings Jerry, Jim, Dorothy, Merlin and Wayne. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the National MS Society and the local Relay for Life.