Centenarian reflects on a lifetime of service

By Elaine Hauptman

Resident Writer

Armistice Day, Flappers, Prohibition, Stock Market Crash, Depression, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Flower Children, Woodstock, Man on the Moon, Twin Towers, Iran War, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Esther Nicols has lived through it all. The tales of her life become a fascinating book, an example of trust, beauty, and deep beliefs.

Esther will be 101. When asked how she feels about her age, she responded, “I’ll evaluate the situation.” Talking to her restores your faith in humanity. Her humility, passion for causes, and desire to help others continue to permeate her entire life.

The romance between Esther and Leslie Nicols began at Cornell University, where Leslie studied Agricultural Science and Esther studied Home Economics and Human Ecology. Both loved farming, nature, and the environment. Leslie had grown up on a family-run dairy farm in Fort Edward, New York. Esther was a Long Island girl.

Active involvement was always a family affair. Esther’s mother, Katherine Smith, was one of the founders of League of Women Voters on Long Island. This need to help and inform others was passed down from generation to generation. Our Riderwood resident was the assistant manager of food service at the U.S. Supreme Court. She later carried on her love of cooking and baking to become an expert in Spanish rice made with chicken. Her main specialty is thick, delicious chilli. With the help of the Community Ministries at the local Methodist Church, Esther cooked and served lunches for over 100 homeless people each week.

Even as she raised four boys and taught in a local high school, she was active in both her church and in the League of Women Voters. Today, she is still an avid reader; she just completed Michelle Obama’s book and has started Melinda Gates’ book, “The Moment of Truth.” She attends classes, belongs to the knitting club, is involved with her church, and remains politically astute and aware.

This fall Esther’s late husband, Leslie, will be recognized by the National Headquarters of the 4H clubs. He was the county 4H agent and initiated the original international exchange of youth workers.

After World War II Leslie Nicols was asked to work with German youth. These young people had been taught to fight and use guns. Farming and agriculture were completely foreign to them. Leslie, who had fought in the war and had risen in the ranks, had an extreme dislike for the Germans.

As his training and rehabilitation with them progressed, he began to realize that these former enemies were people who had feelings, fears, and desires the same as American youth. He established the “Moment of Lift,” an international exchange program which has continued until this day.

Esther, herself, was honored on July 24 in the Maryland Hall. She is one of many residents here at Riderwood who are over 100 years young.

**Editorial Note: The original headline for this article used the word “servitude” in place of “service”. This was a typographical error that greatly changed the meaning of the headline. The staff of the Riderwood Reporter deeply apologizes to Esther Nicols and Elaine Hauptman for this mistake.**

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