Leland “Penny” Nicholas, 89, Oconto Falls, died Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at home, surrounded by his loving family. He was born May 21, 1931 in Abrams to Wesley and Bernice (Exferd) Nicholas. Leland grew up in the Abrams area where he attended Abrams State Grade School, graduating from Oconto Falls High School with the class of 1949. It was in high school when one of his coaches referred to him as “Penny” and the name stuck. As a young man, he served in the US Navy on the USS Moale during the Korean War from 1952 to 1953, holding the unique position as the ship’s only barber.
While attending a polka dance at the Oconto County Fair in Gillett, he met Lois Carlson and on June 1, 1957 Penny and Lois married. The couple lived in Oconto Falls for all their married lives and raised five children. Penny was a very loving and devoted husband, father, grandpa, and great grandpa. He worked as a master barber out of his home barbershop for 59 years until retiring in 2019 and was always willing to meet his clientele in their homes, hospital rooms, or nursing home facilities. Penny also worked as a rural mail carrier for the US Postal Service for 30 years.
As a longtime and active member of Grace Lutheran Church in Oconto Falls, he served on the church council, ushered and sang in the church and city ecumenical choirs. Penny also served on the Oconto Falls City Council for 12 years as alderman and president during his tenure and was instrumental in the development of the West Side Beach. He also served on the NEW Credit Union board for 34 years, receiving the HP Heckendorf Community Service Award in March 2020. Penny served on the Oconto Falls Senior Center board of directors for 10 years. He held memberships in the local Masonic Lodge, Shriners, USS Moale Assoc. and American Legion Post 302, where he served in numerous capacities including post commander. In 2015, Penny went on an honor flight with fellow veterans to Washington D.C. He was a charter member of River Island Golf Course in Oconto Falls, helping to build the course. Over the years, Penny enjoyed producing homemade wine, taking long walks and square dancing with his wife, and spending time with his beloved family. Penny will be fondly remembered as the ultimate provider for his family, instilling in them the values of service to others, faith, hard work, honesty, and treating all people with dignity and respect.
Survivors are his five loving children and their families, Jilayne (Mark) Robinson and their sons, Noah and Isaiah, Lynette (Tim) DeRuyter and their sons, Josh (Hailey), Andy and Sam; great grandsons Mack and Linc DeRuyter, all of DePere; Carlyn (Ned) Haas and their sons, Chas, St. Paul, MN, Evan and Joel, Sobieski; Perron (wife Mary Lauten) Nicholas, Madison; Torren (Shirley Wilkinson) Nicholas, Sheboygan; two sisters, Laverne Giese, Green Bay; Sylvia (Lowell “Buzz”) Kamke, Oconto Falls; one brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Everett Carlson, Gillett; Lenea Carlson, Cecil; nieces, nephews and numerous good friends.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife Lois in 2015, his parents, his in-laws, Godfrey and Martha Carlson, Lois’s infant sister, June, two sisters, Dona (Orval Hass) – (Hank) Jorgensen and Dawn (Harold) Huebscher, brothers-in-law, Fredrick “Fritz” (Veronica) Carlson, Elmer Giese, Ray Carlson, and sister-in-law Joan Carlson.
Due to COVID concerns, the services including military honors will take place graveside at 3:00pm Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at Woodlawn Cemetery, 828 S. Main St. Oconto Falls with Pastor Gary Olson officiating. Please feel free to bring your own chair. Casual dress is encouraged. A reception to celebrate Penny’s life will immediately follow at a separate location. Jones Funeral Service in Oconto Falls is serving the Nicholas family.
The Nicholas family would like to give a special thank you to his exceptional caregiver and friend, Lisa Alsteen. Gratitude is also extended to Heartland Hospice for the care and concern shown Penny.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorials in Penny’s name may be made to WRVM Radio, Suring; Kingdom Come Food Pantry, Oconto Falls; Heartland Hospice, DePere; Grace Lutheran Church, Oconto Falls, or the charity of your choice.
Tuesday Sep 1, 2020, 3:00 pm at Woodlawn Cemetery [map]