Barbara Anne Lloyd Nickels, trailblazing Evanston elementary school teacher, died April 21, 2020 from Covid-19.
Barbara Nickels, 87, was born in Green Bay, Wis., in 1932 and studied art and elementary education at Ripon College in Wisconsin before moving to Evanston in 1963.
A forceful advocate for civil rights in the early days of public school integration, she taught at College Hill Elementary School from 1963 until the school closed in 1976, then at Oakton Elementary School until the mid-1980s. An early adopter of the “team teaching” approach, she displayed her deep caring for her students through her advocacy and belief in parental involvement.
She was an avid ETHS booster who loved to attend football and basketball games even if her kids were not playing. The fact that one of her favorite songs to sing in her older years was the Evanston Fight Song was a testament to her lifelong Evanston spirit. Her students will remember her no-nonsense standards of excellence in learning, along with her wacky sense of humor, energy and passion.
That passion extended to her own life, in her love of sports, art, architecture, history, Welsh genealogy, nature, animals, and antiques. She loved the thrill of the hunt at flea markets for her extensive and eclectic collections, which included Gaudy Welsh china, copper lustreware, and Toby Jugs, many of which are now housed in the Toby Jug Museum in Evanston. A talented artist and decorator, she enjoyed drawing and painting, and took part in art therapy classes even as her health declined.
But most of all, she loved to travel. She visited more than 50 countries on all seven continents, exploring the cultures and landscapes of the world with an endless sense of adventure, enthusiasm and curiosity.
Although in retirement she split her time between Green Lake, Wis., and Tucson, Ariz., she always considered “Heavenston” her home, and in her 80s she returned here to be near family. Barbara was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Raymond Nickels, who taught, coached and was Business Manager at Evanston Township High School for many years, and also by her daughter, Leslie Nickels, ETHS class of 1971, who passed away in 2017. She is survived by her son, Douglas Nickels, ETHS class of 1972, four grandchildren, Emily Berkeley (Brian Mahoney), Elizabeth Berkeley, ETHS class of 2007 (Stan Swat), Jeff Nickels, Meredith Nickels, her son-in-law, Lon Berkeley, ETHS class of 1970, and daughter-in-law Judy Peterson Nickels, ETHS class of 1974.