In Memoriam: Tom Nicol, brother of FFRF founder, dies at 94

Tom Nicol, 94, of Baudette, Minn., a member of FFRF since 1979, died on April 16 at Lakewood Care Center in Baudette after a sudden decline.

Tom was the last remaining sibling of Anne Nicol Gaylor, the principal founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Born at home on a farm in rural Tomah, Wis., on March 15, 1924, to Jason Theodore Nicol and Lucy Sowle Nicol, Tom was an outdoorsman who became a pilot and pilot instructor, living for a time in Alaska.

He held a variety of jobs, including working in construction, fixing houses, and buying damaged cars from insurance companies to fix up and resell. Tom opened a shop, Tom’s Tackle, in Baudette in 1959, selling the store, which is still operating, after a few years in pursuit of new experiences. He officially “retired” in 1970, while keeping a hand in construction and “fix-up” work.

He was married to Alice (nee Brunson) for 71 years, who preceded him in death in December 2016. They have one son, Gary, who lives in Baudette.

“My dad stayed busy, and was fortunate that he enjoyed a lot of years of retirement, doing what he liked to do,” Gary told Freethought Today.

His three siblings preceded him: Jason Nicol, 45, died in Chicago in 1965; brother Robert Nicol, 90, died in New Auburn, Wis., in 2010, and sister Anne, 88, died in Madison, Wis., in 2015.

“I barely saw my uncle in person — it was very exciting the few times he popped in briefly to Madison — but he took a long-distance interest in FFRF. My mother spoke to him once a week, and he was sympathetic toward all her causes,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. Tom and Alice were both major contributors to FFRF’s original Freethought Hall, purchased in 1990.

Tom Nicol sits with his sister Anne Nicol Gaylor, who was an FFRF co-founder.
Tom Nicol and his wife Alice on their wedding day in 1945.