After a short illness, Bill Nichols passed peacefully from this life the evening of Sept. 28, 2016. He had just had his 80th birthday. Following a diagnosis of cancer in June, 2016, treatment began with partial success. Hospice care began September 19 at Alexander Cohen Hospice House.Bill Was born September 15, 1936 in Adams, Massachusetts to parents Edward and Esther (Perkins) Nichols. In his early years he lived with his family, including older sister Janet in Yonkers, NY. Frequent family visits to relatives in MA were enjoyed by all. Bill graduated from UMass, Amherst, in 1958 with a BS in Landscape Architecture. In 1962, he received his Master’s in City and Regional Planning at Yale University. His interest in the western US had him sending job applications to several cities. Interview appointments came from Fort Worth, TX, San Diego and Modesto, CA and Seattle, WA. Bill wanted to work for a city with a City Manager form of government. Bill spent 1962-1966 in the Modesto City Planning Department. He enjoyed working in a central city with growth challenges and in charge of its own destiny. Population in 1962 was 38,000. During this time he met and married Betty Okerman, in 1964. Their unusual first home was the basement apartment of the McHenry Mansion. Daughter Karen arrived in 1965. Again, wanting to experience life in another area of the US, the family moved to Madison, WI where Bill was employed until late 1969. Son John had joined the family in April, 1969. The position of Planning Director in Modesto had become open in 1969 and Bill applied and was accepted to fill it. The family returned to Modesto, now with 60,000 population.
Bill retired in 1998 having long served as Modesto’s Director of Planning and Community Development, completing a public service career that in total spanned 36 years. He believed the physical environment was an important factor in our quality of life. Bill led efforts to control the proliferation of signs, to maintain residential privacy while increasing overall residential density and to direct urban development to cities and in so doing support our agricultural base. Much of this work culminated with the City’s adoption of the village neighborhood planning concept in the late 1990’s. Bill worked tirelessly with the building industry and environmental organizations to sanction a neighborhood design all could support. All new residential development for over 20 years has been based on this concept. 1998 population, approx 180,000.
Family life through the years included camping trips, sports, music, church participation, YMCA activities, vacation travel, and assorted pets. Bill had been active in Toastmaster’s International since 1962 and continued into July of this year.Following retirement there was more time for longer European travels, Bill and Betty both enjoyed MICL opportunities, Masterworks Chorus at MJC, Modesto Symphony Chorus, and ushering at the Gallo Center of the Arts.Bill is survived by Betty, his wife of 52 years, daughter Karen Nichols, sister Janet Derouin of Bridgton, Maine, nephew Chadbourne Derouin of Oklahoma City, OK, nephew Montgomery Derouin of Bridgton, ME, and several cousins. He was predeceased by his parents Edward and Esther Nichols and son John Nichols.