Robert Nichols

Robert Nichols, a lifelong member of the Society of Friends, died at his home in Contoocook, New Hampshire on November 29, 2002. He was 90 years old.

Bob was born in Kennebunk, Maine, August 24, 1912, and grew up in Portland, Maine. He studied at MIT and City College of New York, where he graduated with a degree in science.

In 1937, Bob married his sister’s sister-in-law, Adelaide Dustin of Contoocook, New Hampshire. They settled in Portland and Bob became active in Portland Monthly Meeting. The family later moved to Ellington, Connecticut, where they helped establish a Friends worship group in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bob worked as manager of Co-op grocery stores, as a machinist, and as a sales representative.

In 1965, the Nichols moved back to Adelaide’s family homestead in Contoocook, where they would remain. Bob was employed as a machinist and later as a carpenter for Community Builders, owned by Concord Meeting member Don Booth. Bob and Adelaide helped reestablish the Friends Meeting in Concord, which Bob served as presiding clerk and treasurer.

Bob’s gift for seeing and speaking truth made him a beacon and conscience for the meeting. Never afraid to make others uncomfortable with the truth as he saw it, Bob’s challenges to Friends, as well as non-Friends, deepened our search for understanding of a situation.

This was particularly true in his ministry to inmates at the New Hampshire State Prison. He carried this ministry for over twenty years, both with and without the support of his Meeting. His regular visits to the prison were a source of hope and friendship to the inmates he saw. Bob provided more than spiritual counseling; he became an advocate, often serving as a witness at trials or parole hearings. He also became active in organizations seeking reform of the criminal justice system. He was a faithful participant in New England Yearly Meeting’s Friends for Restorative Justice. Most importantly, Bob’s passion made these issues a constant source of reflection within Concord Meeting, inspiring others to become involved in various ways as well. For a brief time this led to a worship group in the prison.

Bob was active for many years in Peace and Social Concerns Committee, both in Concord Monthly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting, and in the Yearly Meeting’s Prison Concerns Working Group.

Bob believed that Quakers were called to act, both individually and as a corporate body, on a wide range of injustices in the world. This was his persistent challenge to us. His words were pointed, clear and cause for consideration. He could make us laugh with his simple observations of life. He could make us uncomfortable with his blunt forthrightness. And though his challenges did on occasion lead the Meeting to be frustrated with him, and he frustrated with the Meeting, he remained faithful to the end. There was never any challenge to Bob’s spiritual roots. He was a man who spent his life seeking God’s will, and acting that it should be done.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Adelaide, two sons, a daughter, ten grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and several dozen members of Concord Monthly Meeting who were profoundly touched by his presence on this Earth.