Richard C. Nick­els Sr.

He be­gan his ca­reer in rail­road­ing as a B&O mes­sen­ger and rose to hold a CSX mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive post

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Fred­er­ick N. Ras­mussen fras­mussen@balt­

Richard C. Nick­els Sr., a re­tired CSX mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive whose rail­road ca­reer spanned more than four decades, died Mon­day from res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure at Pick­ers­gill Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity in West Tow­son. He was 91. “Dick had a strong love and al­le­giance to rail­roads,” said Ralph L. Fel­ter, a for­mer CSX col­league and re­tired rail­road con­sul­tant who lives in York, Pa. “He was a very quiet an­a­lyst and a be­hind-the-scenes guy. He never had a harsh word for any­one or com­plained.”

“I first met him back in 1965 when I joined the B&O Rail­road. He was a dear man and ev­ery­one who knew Dick liked him. Hen­ever had a rough or bad thought in his mind,” said John Tier­ney, a for­mer CSX plan­ning depart­ment col­league who re­tired in 1980 from Burling­ton North­ern Rail­road as a se­nior vice pres­i­dent.

The son of Richard Harry Nick­els, a Pope & Tal­bot Steamship Co. purser, and Ruth Chris­tine Nick­els, a home­maker, Richard Car­roll Nick­els was born at home on Avalon Av­enue and raised in Go­vans.

He grad­u­ated in 1943 from City Col­lege, then be­gan work­ing at age 17 as a mes­sen­ger for the Bal­ti­more & Ohio Rail­road.

Dur­ing World War II, he served three years in the Navy as an avi­a­tion ma­chin­ist mate.

Af­ter be­ing dis­charged, he re­turned to the B&O. He also went back to school and in 1951re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in business from the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park. He then re­ceived a mas­ter’s de­gree in 1973 from what is now Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity Mary­land.

Mr. Nick­els worked in the B&O’s com­mer­cial depart­ment be­fore join­ing its mar­ket­ing depart­ment.

He worked at the rail­road dur­ing trans­for­ma­tive times. Jervis Lang­don Jr., who had joined the B&O in 1956 as gen­eral coun­sel, suc­ceeded Howard E. Simp­son as pres­i­dent in 1961. At­tempt­ing to stanch the ero­sion of rail traf­fic to trucks and barge lines, Mr. Lang­don ini­ti­ated rate-mak­ing and mar­ket­ing re­search to see what cus­tomers re­quired, and over­hauled the com­pany’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment.

Mr. Nick­els “joined the rev­o­lu­tion­ary mar­ket­ing trans­for­ma­tion that took place af­ter Jervis ar­rived,” said E. Ray Lichty, a re­tired CSX vice pres­i­dent and Glen Arm res­i­dent. “Dick was an orig­i­nal mem­ber of the prod­uct de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, where he worked in equip­ment uti­liza­tion and plan­ning.”

“He bounced around a lit­tle as we shifted func­tions in mar­ket­ing un­til we be­came a fairly uni­fied group,” re­called Her­bert H. Har­wood Jr., a Cross Keys res­i­dent who is also a re­tired CSX ex­ec­u­tive, as well as a rail­road his­to­rian and au­thor. “He was a very nice guy and very easy to work with.”

“Dick was con­sid­ered very knowl­edge­able on the cus­tomer’s needs,” Mr. Lichty said. “He was a rare breed in those early days when the mar­ket­ing rev­o­lu­tion took place, as one with a solid rail­road back­ground and a great ed­u­ca­tion tai­lored to fit his work as­sign­ments.

“He­was a man­a­head of his time,” he said. “He con­tin­ued to work through the dif­fi­cult pe­riod when the rail­roads were dereg­u­lated and had to adapt to new ways of do­ing business.”

Mr. Nick­els worked in the rail­road’s Charles Cen­ter build­ing.

“I joined the rail­road in 1968 and worked with Dick in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment,” Mr. Fel­ter said. “We were devel­op­ing new freight cars and do­ing fleet sur­veys to see how many cars we needed to serve cus­tomers.”

At the time of his 1987 re­tire­ment from suc­ces­sor com­pany CSX, Mr. Nick­els was man­ager of equip­ment in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment.

A long­time res­i­dent of the Spring­dale neigh­bor­hood in Cock­eysville, he was an ac­tive mem­ber and past pres­i­dent of RABO — the Re­tired Ad­min­is­tra­tors of the B&O Rail­road, and its suc­ces­sors — and CHEERS, an­other rail­road re­tire­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion.

His wife of 68 years, the for­mer Sara Jayne Shank, said the two met on a blind date at Holy Com­forter Lutheran Church in Go­vans.

“It was love at sight,” she said. An avid Bal­ti­more Colts fan, Mr. Nick­els was close friends with Art Dono­van, the team’s leg­endary de­fen­sive tackle. Mr. Dono­van called him “Mr. Five Pen­nies,” re­called Mrs. Nick­els.

He had vol­un­teered for 15 years at Greater Bal­ti­more Med­i­cal Cen­ter, mostly in the ra­di­a­tion ther­apy depart­ment.

He was a res­i­dent of Pick­ers­gill since last year, and would of­ten reach out to com­fort res­i­dents whowere in dis­tress, his wife said.

Mr. Nick­els also had been ac­tive in the Boy Scouts where he was troop chair­man, and was an ac­com­plished ball­room dancer and ice skater.

He and his wife va­ca­tioned at Cape Cod, Mass., for 55 years, and also trav­eled to Europe and Ber­muda. They en­joyed tak­ing Caribbean cruises.

He also liked crossword puz­zles — at Pick­ers­gill he was known as a “crossword whiz,” his wife said.

He was a mem­ber of Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 22 in Tow­son.

Mr. Nick­els was an ac­tive mem­ber of As­cen­sion Lutheran Church, 7601 York Road, Tow­son, where a memo­rial ser­vice will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 19.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, Mr. Nick­els is sur­vived by his son, Richard Car­roll Nick­els Jr. of Hamp­stead; a daugh­ter, Jody Ann Woodward of Reis­ter­stown; four grand­chil­dren; and two great-grand­chil­dren. “He was a man ahead of his time,” a for­mer col­league said about Richard C. Nick­els Sr. first

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