By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 28 2017
There’s no doubt when Bob Nichol died he left our community a little poorer.
The Haliburton born and raised father of two adult children loved his golf about as much as the community as he was a tireless promoter of the county.
His community efforts came with being a member for the Rotary Club of Haliburton from the 1990s to mid-2000 and former president organizing the Timbits Provincial Elementary School Curling Championships when it was here in the past bringing the idea to sell advertising at the local arena in Haliburton helping with past fundraising golf tournaments for the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation (now the Matt Duchene Charity Golf Classic Tournament) and helped bring the 55+ Senior Games here.
After his death on Thursday Jan. 19 hundreds paid their respects at the visitation and many stayed for the service led by reverend Harry Morgan.
His brother Hugh Nichol also active in the community as a volunteer in various causes laughed about how his 65-year-old brother would have reacted to the service’s attendance probably believing it wasn’t necessary.
He adds it was a showcase of the many lives Bob touched.
“I thought it was a great send off to an individual who gave a lot of his heart and soul back to the community. I think that was reflected in the number of people that came” he said.
Daughter Rosanne said the service’s turnout “surprised and [we’re] thankful that our parents raised us in such a supportive community.”
His son André and his daughter asked people to share stories about their father at the service.
Chris Bishop talked about photographing the wedding between Bob and his late wife Anna Sicoli-Nichol and his love of alpine skiing which led to the formation of “E.I. Ski Team.” Former HHSS principal Dale Robinson remembered his devotion to the Beatles which extended to dressing up like John Lennon right down to the round sunglasses. Most recently he had telephoned Autumn Smith weekly at the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce to share his ideas for the community.
HHHSF executive director Dale Walker knew him for at least 35 years and said ever since the Foundation started 20 years ago Bob has provided input on fundraising initiatives. Officially he served four years on the HHHS Charity Golf Classic committee. He was also involved with Ducks Unlimited.
When Hugh and Bob talked the conversation often focused on improving the community attracting more people with events to bolster tourism.
“That’s the biggest thing I remember. He was always talking about ‘they should try this. They should look at that’ and he was involved in a lot of different events over the years and well you know what? He really put his heart and soul into it” he said.
His daughter remembers her father serving as a councillor for Dysart et al during the early part of 2000 to 2004 and ran for the deputy reeve position twice unsuccessful in both attempts.
His passion for improving the community came from an affinity for the area rooted in family. Both he and his brother were born and raised here. Their parents lived here for decades.
“His parents were business owners in the community. He knew challenges people can face in a seasonal economy. I think it inspired him to help out where he could. He always supported local businesses” Rosanne said.
The Nichol family first came to the Highlands when Bob and Hugh’s grandmother bought the Haliburton Highlands Golf Course in the 1940s. They grew up on the course working as youth to help with the small business. It is at the heart of why they love golf and why they love the Highlands.
“Because you think of all the people you meet on a course as a kid and an owner. You go out and play and talk to them. I think that’s where the love came from. At that time there were a lot of people who played locally. We were one of the few golf courses in the area … you would meet a lot of local people. I think that’s where it came from” Hugh said.
Bob’s son André still remembers the drives they would go on after having breakfast at the Kosy Korner.
On occasion it included a history lesson about particular places and what happened there to him. Conversations ranged from family and ideas to improve the community to politics or the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game.
Even before the funeral service was made public people were already reaching out to André and his sister and uncle learning about the death through word of mouth as can happen in a small town.
Values from Bob that will live on in his children include hard work a strong work ethic persistence and grit.
It was something André needed during his first summer job before high school performing yard work for his grandparents on an open lot. The easy thing would have been was to quit. In hindsight the lesson taught him to never give up in the face of adversity or discomfort.
There were a lot of things Bob did for the community he loved always striving to make it better for everyone his brother Hugh said.
“Whenever there were events going he would go out and sell tickets raise money. He did an awful lot for the community and one of the things I said at his funeral – it’s something I think is important – if every community had more people like my brother when it came to volunteering his time wouldn’t that community be a lot better off” he said.