Bobby Earl Nichols, 79, passed away on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in Abilene. A beloved father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend, Bobby was very active in contributing to the aviation community in Abilene, Bangs, Brownwood, and beyond.
Visitation will be at 9:15 a.m. Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 at Belmont Baptist Church (2117 Palm Street, Abilene), immediately followed by memorial service at 10 am. Burial will be at 2:30 p.m. in Clear Creek Cemetery in Brown County, near Brownwood.
The oldest of four children, he was born to Bernice Polk Nichols and O.H. Nichols in Brown County on May 12, 1937. He grew up on a ranch where he raised steers and won many 4-H awards for his agricultural skills. During his youth he also developed a love for aviation and music. He began building model airplanes and also learned to play the trumpet and piano. Aviation quickly became his main passion. At the young age of 15, Bobby first flew solo, and then received his pilot’s license at age 16. In 1955 he graduated from Bangs High School and thereafter attended Texas A&M, where he played trumpet in the famous Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.
Bobby went to work for the Texas Highway Department in Abilene, where he worked in engineering and as an Automation Administrator, eventually retiring after 37 years of service in 1993. During this time, his passion for aviation never faded, and he acquired his own airplanes to fly and work on, even beginning to build a Taylor Monoplane from scratch. Bobby loved to fly his planes to air shows known as “Fly-Ins,” where he met other aviators from all over the country. He also loved to fly gliders and enjoyed attending hot air balloon festivals. Bobby was the founding member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 471 in Abilene, and the Chapter uses Bobby’s artwork for their logo to this day. As part of EAA, he volunteered many hours for the Young Eagles national program each year, where youth are taught about aviation and taken for free flights around the city by Chapter pilots.
Bobby was truly a Renaissance man who could make just about anything, from bows and arrows for deer hunting to welding projects to airplanes. His ingenuity was amazing, his talents were many, and he generously shared his creativity and enthusiasm with everyone.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and a brother, Edwin Nichols, who passed in 2002. He is survived by his daughter, Kelly Nichols Berl (husband Michael); two grandchildren, Ethan Berl (California) and Erin Berl (a senior at Princeton University); a brother, Sam Nichols (wife Pat) in Brownwood; and a sister, Betty Traylor (husband Jerry), also in Brownwood.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bobby E. Nichols Young Eagles Fund for the local EAA Chapter 471 by going to www.eaa471.org or calling 325-677-7755 for more information.