Vernon Nichols

Obituary of Vernon Charles Nichols

       Vernon Charles Nichols died peacefully with much appreciated help from Hospice at his home in Portland OR.  He had suffered from myasthenia gravis since 2009 and was recently diagnosed with leukemia.


       He was born in Fort Covington, NY to Bertha Neal Nichols and Vernon C. Nichols.  His parents and their families were from the Piedmont area of North Carolina.  As a Methodist minister it would have been customary for his father to return to his home conference in North Carolina, but because his father believed that segregation was wrong he served several churches in the Northern New York Conference before retiring and moving back to North Carolina in 1970.


       Vernon graduated from Chateaugay High in NY.  He met Susan Radcliff at Syracuse University in 1950.  After graduation from Syracuse in 1953 he went on to Boston University School of Theology.  After Sue's graduation from Syracuse in 1954 they were married.  He received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree in 1956 and his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Boston University in 1957.


       He was ordained 1956.  His first pastorate was the Methodist Church in Alexandria Bay/Redwood, NY (1957-1959.  Wishing to pursue further study, he moved to New York City in 1959.  He served the Methodist Church in Ozone Park,  NY from 1959 until 1961, also serving as a chaplain with the New York City Hospital in Elmhurst. He went with his family to the Unitarian Congregation in Flushing, NY and gained fellowship with the  Unitarian Universalist Association in 1967.


       He was Assistant Minister in the Plandome Congregation from 1967 Until 1971.  His longest ministry was with the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Congregation (1971-1983).  During Vernon's ministry the congregation used some of their property to build a senior residence open to any eligible applicant regardless of religious affiliation.  This facility has become an important Ottawa institution.


       He next ministered to the Universalist Church of West Hartford CT (1983-1984).  In 1984 he received an urgent call from his colleague in the Unitarian Universalist headquarters.    The Northwest (MI) Congregation's minister, who had died very suddenly after a 50-year ministry had been the only minister the congregation had ever known.  Vernon was glad to meet this critical need and accepted the congregation's invitation to assist for two years.  However, after one year, Vernon and his wife Sue were hired to head the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations.


       Vernon, a long time social justice and peace activist, had written, demonstrated and led others in the currently ongoing quest for a world free from war and hate.  It was a natural fit for him to be at the United Nations where he could work with other like-minded organizations.  He soon became the President of the UN NGO Committee on Disarmament, continuing the tradition of leadership by other Unitarian Universalist clergy and laypersons.  Soon the Committee was renamed the UN NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, indicating the Committee's full mission.


       He was especially upset when the USA bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He was in close contact with the mayors of these two cities and with hibakusha (survivors of nuclear attacks).  He made seven trips to participate in their annual memorials of August 6 and 9--always very sad but  meaningful experiences.  On one occasion he was arrested for "trespassing on US Government Property" when protesting nuclear bomb testing.


       When Vernon retired in1993 he and Sue remained in New York and at the United Nations, carrying out their work.  At the UN he was the United Nations representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and had also represented the Unitarian Universalist Association and the International Association for Religious Freedom.


       He is survived by his wife Susan (Sue), sons Howard Vernon (Oregon City), George Martin (Seattle), and Peter John (Portland) and grandchildren Matthew Griffin (Ferndale, WA), Hope Radcliff (Bellingham, WA) and Stephen Vernon David (Hillsboro).


       An online memorial service will be held in the Eliot Chapel of the First Unitarian Church Portland on Saturday at 1 pm PDT Oct. 3. Here is a link for people to connect to the service. 


Memorial gifts may be made to the following organizations.

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Online Memorial Service

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Saturday, October 3, 2020
Chapel of the First Unitarian Church
Portland, Oregon, United States
Here is a link for people to connect to the service.
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