C. “Kay” Nichols, 83, of Topeka, passed away on Saturday, June 22, 2019. She was born June 9, 1936, in Wheeler, Texas, the daughter of Tilman Calhoun and Mildred (Flynt) Newkirk.
Kay and her 4 siblings were raised in the hardscrabble, drought-ridden area of the Texas Panhandle from the 1930’son. Living on ranches or farms around the Amarillo area, her parents worked at any job that would help put food on the table. Her father often had to take jobs that took him away from home for long periods, such as patrolling electric power lines on horseback, or being an over-the-road truck driver. Her mother not only raised 5 children -under the age of five!- by herself a lot of the time, but also milked cows to make cream to sell, harvested crops, and did myriad chores required to run a farm. Almost all of the locations they lived had no plumbing or electricity, little- to-no regular housing, and were far away from most towns. Her mother usually bought their clothes at rummage sales. One time, her mother bought Kay a pair of panties that buttoned up instead of having elastic. She popped the buttons on them doing a circle dance at school, and still had to keep on dancing and stay properly dressed!
All the children helped out with the chores. One of Kay’s jobs was to cook breakfast each morning. Her brother, T.C., said she could cook some mean scratch biscuits and gravy with eggs. She would go to the nearest town to the public laundromat to do the wash, and then spend Saturday and sometimes Sunday with her Mom at her grandfather’s house ironing clothes.
Kay often had to take a bus over 14 miles to get to high school. In part because of her statuesque 5’11” frame, Kay became a successful center on the Samnorwood basketball team. She became the school’s valedictorian, and earned a scholarship to the Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, TX. One of her favorite memories is of meeting one of her crushes, Jimmy Dean.
After a couple of years there, she went to West Texas State where she met and married her husband. They later divorced. She started working for Bell Telephone Co. and they moved to Salinas, CA. She stayed with the company after working for them in Texas, New Mexcico and California for well over 30 years. She retired as an Accounting Staff Specialist in 1990.
She had an incredible work ethic that took her from working as a long-distance switchboard operator in the 1950’s to a top managerial position. She seldom, if ever, missed a day of work. In fact, she won an award for working five straight years without a single absence. In a testament to his mother, her son also inherited that sense of duty and pride in a job well done.
Kay retired in 1990 after being diagnosed with first a brain tumor (!), which fortunately proved to be false, and then ALS. Because of a desire to learn more about any possible ALS history in her family, she became deeply interested in genealogy. Through her copious searching and compiling, she was able to contact a great many relatives who had information to share. Eventually, she traced back family roots to at least the 1600’s in The Netherlands, Scotland, England, Germany and elsewhere. Because of her “detective” work, she was able to host an amazing family reunion at the Presbyterian Manor, with people coming from all over the country to meet again, or for the first time.
Kay was an avid and fierce game player. She excelled in Scrabble and doing difficult crosswords. When visiting the cabin in Ruidoso, N Mex., card games, board games, and jigsaw puzzles were always in the game plan. She also enjoyed the occasional Fuzzy Navel. She loved reading her Romance novels and always had one on hand. In addition, she was a huge fan of Lifetime t.v., and when visiting Kay you would always find her working on a word puzzle or her family charts, watching t.v., and snacking on her favorite treat, toasted almonds.
Having spent over 20 years living at the Manor, Kay always expressed deep gratitude for the loving care and attention she received from all the staff. She got to know so many people and always appreciated their professionalism, their friendliness, and the concern they always shared with her. Being such a strong, independent woman, it would not have been easy for Kay to rely so much on others, but she accepted their excellent care with her characteristic graciousness. As her family, we are deeply grateful for all they did for her.
She loved her family very much. Survivors include a son, Steven T. (Kathryn) Nichols, Topeka; two grandchildren, Ian T. Nichols and Colin G. Nichols; three siblings, Tilman C. (Joy) Newkirk, Topeka, Guy A. (Karen) Newkirk, Hawthorne, CA.
Kay was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Mildred E. Ridge; and a twin brother, Dalton Newkirk.
She enjoyed going on vacations with her brothers and their wives, always finding great pleasure in taking walks with her two “sisters”, Joy and Karen, in order to admire the flora along the way. She not only cherished her son, but she took great pride in his accomplishments and those of her two beloved grandsons. When the boys were younger, she kept a store of toys they could play with when they came to visit, including snakes and a train. She liked watching them.
She was such an amazing woman. She never had to raise her voice, and she always set an excellent example of how to lead a goodly life. She was an elegant, lovely, refined, intelligent woman with a wonderful sense of humor that saw her through many hardships. She had a faith in herself that showed what an indomitable spirit she possessed. She lived her life with grace and beauty, sharing her kindness and patience with everyone, all the while living with her disease. As Kay herself once wrote, “I…have such excellent caring people helping me daily that I feel especially blessed. My family and friends are equally loving and are always there for me. My faith in God, a smile on my face and in my heart, and a positive attitude will always see me through. I am truly blessed!!”
Memorial services will be held at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2019 at the Jellison Chapel at Topeka Presbyterian Manor, 4712 SW 6th Ave, Topeka, KS 66606. Private inurnment will take place at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Good Samaritan Fund at the Topeka Presbyterian Manor, 4712 SW 6th St., Topeka, Kansas 66606.
Dove Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Rd. is assisting the family.
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