Former Cortland Acres resident Martha Nichols, who passed away in late 2013, posthumously received the “Remember Me” award from the West Virginia Health Care Association. Family members accepted on her behalf during a special ceremony at the state Capitol complex in Charleston.
Three children of Martha and J. Pat Nichols – a current Cortland Acres resident – attended the Jan. 22 event along with numerous Cortland officials and friends. Pat A. Nichols, Kevin Nichols and Mary Leavitt were present in Charleston to represent the family. Attending from Cortland were Administrator Beth Clevenger along with Bobbi Grinnan, Marie Grafton, Cindy Helmick, and board members Dan Bucher and Chris Stadelman.
Although the sun was shining into the great hall at the Culture Center, the temperature was about 4 degrees. During his introduction of the event, which included a total of six honorees from across the state, WVHCA CEO Patrick Kelly said the Tucker County delegation greeted him by saying, “Man, is it warm down here!”
Pat A. Nichols is the president of the Cortland Acres board, his father was a founder of the long-term care facility and his mother was a founder of the volunteer group Friends of Cortland Acres.
“Martha Nichols was an amazing person who did so much for the Tucker County community as well as Cortland Acres,” Clevenger said. “We’re blessed to have had her and so many family members as a part of the Cortland Acres family.”
Nichols is the sixth Cortland Acres resident to receive the “Remember Me” award in the past six years. She joins Vincent DiBacco, Betty Swantek, Danny Ringer, Solena Massi and Champ Sedmock.
Following is the nomination submitted by Marie Grafton, activities director at Cortland Acres. It was submitted before Mrs. Nichols’ passing.
An outstanding volunteer extraordinaire for over 33 years is Martha Nichols. She has been the backbone of the Friends of Cortland Acres since 1980, when she was one of the founding members. Throughout the years she served as the Vice-President from 1981-1984, President from 1984-1988, and then as the Secretary two times from 1992-1996 and 2000-2004 and was honored in 1989 as the Outstanding Volunteer for Cortland Acres.
Over the years she has assisted in raising thousands of dollars to enhance the quality of the lives of the residents of Cortland Acres by providing for numerous all-expense paid trips, a beautiful courtyard and pavilion, handicap-equipped buses, various equipment, mattresses, chairs, stereo, big-screen TV, dementia sensory items, a well-equipped beauty shop, and assisting with a variety of activities including tea parties, trips or outings, crafts, apple peeling, apple butter stirring and canning, and cleaning of those odoriferous ramps for dinners to name a few. There have been many a spaghetti dinner where she could be found tossing the noodles on the wall to see if they would stick and thus be ready to dish it up.
Martha is a person who likes to see projects through to completion. In addition to her volunteering at Cortland she has over the years been very active in the Thomas and Canaan Valley Women’s Clubs. While a part of the Thomas Women’s club, they were instrumental in getting the Gentle Slope trail built at Blackwater Falls making it possible for handicapped people from all over the world to come and see the mighty rushing water of the Blackwater.
Martha has also been very involved in her church, first at St. Veronica’s and more recently at St. Thomas Aquinas. Martha until the past few years spearheaded the September monthly birthday party at Cortland, which is sponsored by the Ladies Guild from her church, and she assisted the Priest with the monthly Mass services gathering and encouraging all the Catholic nursing home residents to come participate. When her 6 children were in school, Martha was very active with the Athletic and Band Boosters and of course the PTA. This helped to make Mountaineer and Tucker County High School ball teams and bands forces to be reckoned with.
Martha’s father emigrated from Yugoslavia before WW I and then following the war he was able to send for his family. They first settled in Maryland then moved to the little coal mining town of Pierce, WV where Martha was born in 1928. She graduated from Thomas High School as one of the top six of her class at the age of 17 in 1945.
After hearing several ladies from the town of Pierce describe their love of nursing, Martha decided to follow suit and went to the University of Maryland. Though she did get a little homesick for the hills of West Virginia, she graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1948. She then worked as an RN at the University Hospital in Maryland, Sacred Heart in Cumberland, MD, McGuire Hospital in Richmond, VA, and at the Veterans Hospital in Clarksburg, WV.
While at the VA Hospital she learned the definition of flower vases. One of the patients asked for a vase and she being the naive young nurse asked what size his bouquet was. The patient was trying to request a urinal in a polite manner.
Martha interrupted her nursing career to marry the love of her life, J. Pat, and after her children were in school, Martha returned to assisting the Tucker County Health nurse with a variety of prevention clinics.
Martha has done numerous needlepoint projects that elegantly grace the Chapel at Cortland and St. Thomas Aquinas Church. She continues to be an avid reader even stepping into the technology age using a Kindle. She listens to the ball games of her grandson and tabulates his scores – and he calls his grandma as soon as the games are over for a full report.
This traveler to Ireland to kiss the Blarney stone, to Israel, the Vatican, and the land of her ancestry, came from humble, ordinary beginnings, but what a faithful, get-‘em-done life she has lived. They just don’t make them like the super, thoughtful, ready-to-serve volunteer Martha Nichols anymore.