Paul Gerhart Nickel was born December 1, 1931 and passed peacefully in the Palliative Care Unit at Battlefords Union Hospital on April 18, 2022 following a month long stay in hospital. He was 90.
Paul was the ultimate poster boy for modern cardiac medicine given he survived numerous cardiac events, surgeries and procedures since the mid 1980’s. One would think his cardiologists and care team all had magic wands in their arsenal!
Paul was born to Jacob and Elizabeth (Thiessen) Nickel, Russian immigrants who settled in the Great Deer area northeast of Borden, Saskatchewan. Mixed farming of grains and livestock kept Paul and his six siblings busy juggling chores and attending school in a single room school house. Education was very important to Jacob and Elizabeth and all their flock were sent to Rosthern Junior College once they reached high school age. Paul always had an infectious love for life and he became an avid hockey player while in Rosthern. Obviously education was equally infectious and Paul attended Teachers’ College (aka Normal School) in Saskatoon and began teaching in small communities like Tichfield, Macrorie, and Lucky Lake. However, Spiritwood, the next teaching job in his career, stood out. There he met Johanna Gatzke, a young nurse’s aide who worked in the Spiritwood Hospital. They were married August 12, 1957 at the Belbutte Lutheran Church. Upon his death, they had been looking forward to celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary this summer.
Paul and Johanna moved to North Battleford where he taught at King Street School in 1965/66 and Johanna worked as a nurses’ aide at the Gonor Medical Clinic. He took a job as principal of Bready School shortly thereafter then returned to Saskatoon with Johanna and their young family for one year to complete his Bachelor of Education degree. Upon returning to North Battleford, Paul taught at McKitrick School then became Principal at various public schools throughout the city including Riverview, Connaught, Alexander and Lawrence until his retirement. He taught adult upgrading night classes at North Battleford Comprehensive High School. To say he enjoyed his career was an understatement! Obviously he instilled the love of learning/teaching in his three children as they all became teachers who have also enjoyed long and successful careers in education: Christine, a high school administrator, Gerald a welding instructor, and Colleen a middle school math and science teacher.
Paul and Johanna were active members of their community of North Battleford and enjoyed many years of curling, cross country skiing at Finlayson Island, fishing and golfing. Ice fishing with his buddies was a passion for Paul. He was an avid walker to keep fit and loved riding his bike around the community. When curling was no longer an option for Paul, he never missed a game on TV and was a pretty decent armchair commentator. He and Johanna would often argue strategy as they watched the games. If it was not curling, it was his beloved Toronto Blue Jays he was cheering on. He was a member of Zion Lutheran Church Council for many years and helped build the church. Paul helped out with the Boy Scouts of Canada program, helped build many canoes in the NBCHS wood shop and coached minor hockey. He and Bernie Broshko founded the Cardiac Care Walking Group in North Battleford that is still in existence to this day. He and Johanna travelled extensively to Thailand, China, the Holy Land, Venezuela, Alaska, the Panama Canal, Egypt, Jamaica, South Texas, St. Lucia, Hawaii, Maui, Barbados, Mexico, Cuba, Europe and the Dominican Republic. He loved spending time at their cottage at Sunset View Beach on Turtle Lake with family and friends…especially their four granddaughters. Bike rides, card and board games, picking daisies, singing and campfires will be memories ‘his girls’ will cherish forever. Paul and Johanna juggled their time at the lake picking blueberries and wild mushrooms and in North Battleford, tending their huge garden that kept them both busy and nimble.
Paul is survived by his wife of 64.5 years, Johanna (Gatzke) Nickel; his three children, four granddaughters, and seven great-grandchildren: Christine (Bob) Chappell of Turtle Lake, SK and their children and grandchildren: Brianna (Scott) Brewster, Lucy, Charlotte and Riley and Kareena (Matthew) Slaunwhite, Brooks; Gerald (Kelly) Nickel of Turtle Lake, SK and their children and grandchildren: Chelsey (Rob) Rogers, Owen and Evan and Lindsey (Tanner) Pawliw, Leah; Colleen (Myron) Melnychuk of Turtle Lake, SK; Paul’s sisters: Erika Nickel and Betty Wieler and brother, Jake Nickel; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his parents: Jacob and Elizabeth (Thiessen) Nickel as well as three brothers: Wilhelm (Willy) Nickel, Woldemar (Wally) Nickel and Cornelius (Cork) Nickel.
Johanna and family would like to thank Royal University Hospital’s Cardiology Department for Paul’s exemplary care over the years as well as the wonderful team of nurses, care aides, coordinators and Dr. Khurana at Battlefords Union Hospital that gave Paul, Dad, Grandpa excellent care and kept his comfort front and centre at all times.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Friday, April 29, 2022 at 2:00 pm at Zion Lutheran Church with Pastor Sheldon Gattinger officiating. Interment will follow at the Prairie Willows Columbaria – City Cemetery in North Battleford, SK. In lieu of flowers memorial donations in memory of Mr. Paul Nickel can be made to Zion Lutheran Church 10801 Winder Crescent North Battleford, SK S9A 2B9 or to The Heart and Stroke Foundation 1379 Kenaston Blvd. Winnipeg, MB T3P 2T5
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Trevor Watts of Eternal Memories Funeral Service & Crematorium.
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