Paul Eugene “Papaw Spook” Nicholson of Middle Fork died at Kingsbridge in Brevard at the age of 88 on Wednesday August 19th, 2020.
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Born in Rosman in 1931, he was a lifelong resident of Transylvania County, though his largely self-taught expertise in hydraulics and engineering would lead him to travel the world. He always had a recommendation for a place you could get a good meal if you were traveling to seemingly any destination, often ignoring the fact that it had been decades since his visit. Despite his international accomplishments, his greatest source of professional pride was installing indoor plumbing at his family home before he was a teenager, and subsequently providing many other homes in the county with the modern miracles of running water and electricity throughout his early life. His handiwork will remain in the walls and under the floorboards of many local buildings for years to come. He also worked at the “Tracking Station,” now known as PARI, during the Apollo era. He often told a harrowing story of having to move the big dish with a wrench, due to a hydraulics failure, during a thunderstorm in order to maintain contact with astronauts on the way to the moon. There he was also, allegedly, party to one of the first instances of electronic copyright infringement. This allegedly occurred when he and some of his coworkers allegedly used the primitive data-sharing network of the Tracking Station and its counterparts to allegedly send a movie to a sister-station in Australia over the course of a few days in the early 1970’s, allegedly.
More enduring than his earthly feats was his devotion to his beloved wife Clara Jeanne “Jeannie” Nicholson with whom he had five children. They married in 1955 after a lengthy two-week courtship and stayed that way until her passing in 2008, and beyond. He would allow nobody to tell him what to do, yet he did anything she asked. He visited her grave every Sunday until he couldn’t.
In addition to his beloved Clara Jeanne, he was preceded in death by parents Lee and Ethel Nicholson of Rosman, brothers Julius Lee (J.L) (Dorothy), Gertha (Barbara), and Leslie (Helen) Nicholson and sister Loretta Levonne (Nicholson) Sisk (Ira), as well as grandson Micheal Brian Benson.
He is survived by sister Shirley (Nicholson) Gillespie (Lester) of East Fork; children Karen, Roger and wife Dana, Ray, Pamela and husband Dave, Tina and husband Danny; and grandchildren Amy, Daisy, Wendy, Mary Elizabeth, Daniel, Lacy Jeanne, Cagney, Erica, Anna, Chelsea, Heather, Luke, Gabriel, Nicolas, Carey, and Kelly Ann as well as 16 or so great-grandchildren.
He was a proud member of Dunn’s Rock Masonic Lodge and the family would like to thank those brothers who were so supportive and of whom he was so fond.
Those who knew “Spook” know that he had two basic personality modes: either cranky and opinionated or asleep. Despite an occasionally obstructive strength of will, he had an unmatched aptitude for prying joy and humor out of nearly any situation. His lightning quick and razor sharp wit were backed by a formidable intellect that would shatter any Hollywood expectation of what an Appalachian in overalls should be carrying in their noggins.
Though an accomplished engineer, his first intellectual priority was mischief, nonsense and humor. His childhood, by all accounts, resembled that of Tom Sawyer by the banks of the French Broad rather than the Mississippi. This never changed. In his 70’s he stood outside in the summer heat, waiting in line at a chain auto-parts store on opening day, all in an effort to facilitate the following exchange:
“I need a muffler for a ‘59 Hen-Way.”
After frantic typing, furrowed brow, and a call to a manager over the course of several minutes while the line steadily increases.
“Sir, I can’t find anything, what’s a Hen-Way?”
“About 5 or 6 pounds”
Exit stage left
In his memory, remember four things. Get good enough at some things to become helpful to the folks around you. Help out in any way you can. If you are not going to do something to brighten someone’s day, just stay in bed. For the saving grace of forgiveness, thanks be to God.
P.E. Nicholson will be interred next to his beloved wife Clara Jeanne at the Reid Cemetery, near Oakland. A celebration of his life is planned for the spring at his favorite restaurant, the Pisgah Fish Camp.
In lieu of flowers- and at the repeated behest of the deceased and in no way representing the opinions of the family or publication- people who walk on carpet barefoot, people who ruin perfectly good barbeque with sauce of any kind, people who are openly Canadian, broccoli, daytime television hosts that cup their hands under their chins when trying food and then gush the same way every time about how great it tastes, building code updates after 1970, adults who don’t understand where lightning comes from, people who don’t think Redd Foxx is the greatest American comedian of all time, people who think they are better than you somehow just because they have some money, people that don’t know about lamb and mint jelly, people that don’t know the difference between Oakland, Reid, and Sapphire, carpet-baggers, scalawags, hippies, any competitor to John Deere, cyclists, and people who take themselves too seriously are kindly asked to respectfully go get bit.
Online condolences may be left at www.moodyconnollyfuneralhome.com
Moody-Connolly Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.