Life of Local Volunteer Links Gilroy’s Past and Present

Ever since my Aug. 25th column on the exceptional life of
Gilroy’s LaRhee Nichols, who lived to be 103, I have been receiving
e-mails such as this one from Tak and Kit Nishiura:

Ms. Teraji, Through family in Gilroy, we were able to read your
Aug. 25 article/tribute about the life of LaRhee.
Ever since my Aug. 25th column on the exceptional life of Gilroy’s LaRhee Nichols, who lived to be 103, I have been receiving e-mails such as this one from Tak and Kit Nishiura:

“Ms. Teraji, Through family in Gilroy, we were able to read your Aug. 25 article/tribute about the life of LaRhee. My husband’s family has very fond memories of Nicholses during the time they were so involved in helping the Japanese-American families…We were not aware until reading your article that she had passed away. Is there a way you might help us find any information regarding services? We were able to attend the memorial service for Mr. Nick and LaRhee’s 100th birthday celebration. (I enjoyed your column regarding that event). Thank you for any help/leads you might have.”

All those who have inquired are welcome to attend the memorial service for LaRhee Nichols at the United Methodist Church on the corner of Fourth and Church Streets at 11am this Saturday.

People from all across the United States and several other countries are on their way to Gilroy to honor this local volunteer who devoted herself to improving the lives of others.

The news of LaRhee’s passing was of interest to Japanese Americans in the eastern United States as well.

“I’ve forwarded your information to Togo Nishiura, who lives in Pennsylvania and will have a memory/recollection to share too,” Kit said.

LaRhee and Elton Nichols were the first Caucasians in Santa Clara County to greet the trains that brought home Japanese Americans who President Roosevelt’s had incarcerated (Executive Order 9066) during WWII simply for being of Japanese descent.

The Nicholses helped them in their search for homes and jobs as they struggled to rebuild their lives.

They have also been the subject of a Dispatch columnist many of you remember by the name of Chuck Myer.

He was a city planner who helped preserve the Old City Hall building downtown and worked on editing and designing a book about it called “Gilroy’s Old City Hall 1906-1989.”

I enjoy updating stories about many of the same remarkable Gilroy people Chuck wrote about in his column that ran for ten years.

When I wrote about LaRhee’s birthday and the work she had done in our county since the 1940’s, Chuck sent me an e-mail from his home in Rancho Cordova entitled “I just spoke with a 103-year-old woman!”

He recently sent me a copy of the tribute he wrote when Elton Nichols died in 1997 at the age of 101 (they were married for 76 years).

Chuck reminded me that “Elton Nichols, lovingly referred to as ‘Mr. Nick,’ was known as a ‘tinkerer,’ an inventor and a woodworker who made about 500 pairs of candlesticks for world leaders and special people in his life. He worked in his wood shop well into his 90’s.”

Last week Chuck Myer sent news that he was undergoing a biopsy, and when I asked him how it went, he reported, “Not too good.

Sometime around the week of the 17th I will have major surgery on my head and neck to remove several cancerous tumors.

The biopsies showed I have malignant melanoma in both places. So surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are all in my future. Prayers are appreciated!” I promised I’d let readers know.

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