Cover photo for Samuel J Nichols's Obituary
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1942 Samuel 2024

Samuel J Nichols

May 6, 1942 — January 22, 2024

Sam J. Nichols, M.D., a loving, supportive, generous husband, father, grandfather, and loyal friend, passed peacefully at his Bainbridge Island home. He was 81.


Larger than life, he was a man who commanded respect by his presence alone. But he will be remembered by those who loved him for his humility and kindness.


Born in St. Louis to Willard Nichols and Ruth (Bopp) Nichols he was the oldest of three children. He was captain of the Maplewood High basketball team, graduating in 1960. He earned his B.S. in marine biology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1964. There, he lettered in basketball and track, where he set the university's triple jump record.


After college he attended Baylor University Medical School in Houston. His graduating class of 1968 scored higher than any school in the nation on the national exam boards and Sam was thankful for his Baylor education.


His love of nature and the outdoors brought him to the Pacific Northwest, where he completed his internship in general medicine at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. During the Vietnam War, the Navy commissioned him as a Lieutenant Junior Grade and sent him to Pensacola, Florida, where he received training as a flight surgeon and pilot. He was attached to a Marine Corps KC-130 squadron and was stationed in El Toro, California, Iwakuni, Japan, and Naha, Okinawa.


After his honorable discharge from the Navy as Lieutenant Commander, he became a resident in radiology at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in San Antonio, TX, where he also taught medicine at the University of Texas.


For most of his career, he was a partner at Seattle Radiologists, including a term as the group's president. In the spring of 1994, he volunteered at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania. He was president of the Washington State Radiological Society and in 2004 was honored to be inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology.


Throughout his life, he and his wife, Carola, and their sons traveled widely. Later, they liked to visit their sons and their growing families wherever they lived.


In retirement, he had many interests, including maintaining birdhouses for purple martins. Sam had great intellectual curiosity and was an avid reader and a lover of music. His six grandchildren gave him great joy.


Throughout his life, Sam was generous with family, friends, and charities. He was always willing to help friends and neighbors with medical advice and give a helping hand. For his sons, the example of his life will be the most cherished part of his legacy. He always exuded humility, honesty, and compassion for his fellow man.


Having been raised a Lutheran, he was received into the Catholic Church later in life. When diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he simply told people that “the Lord is calling me.”


He is survived by Carola, his beloved wife of almost 54 years; his sons, Karl Nichols (Kate) and Hans Nichols (Jessica); his grandchildren, Rya, Wesley, Zane, Wilhelmina, Theodora and Lars; and his brother Steven Nichols, M.D., (Beth) and sister Lucy Karl (Herb).


A memorial service with Navy honors will be held  at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.


Arrangements entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, WA.

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