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December 1, 2015

David Muir Nicol, 73, died quietly at his home on Potts Creek on 30 November with his wife, Mary Ingalls Woodell asleep beside him, his brother and his nephew nearby, his beloved Newfoundlands, Sadie and Sophie, at his side, and his feline project buddy Loki wrapped around his head. 

In addition to his wife and his critters, he is survived by his brother, Charles Nicol, of Greensboro, NC; his aunts, Nancy Pauley and Martha McMullan, of Daleville, VA and Clifton Forge, respectively; his nephews, Bobby Nicol and Steve Nicol, of Mt. Holly, NC and Charlotte, NC, respectively; his niecelette Carol Donovan of Wilmington, NC; his cousins Kate van der Waard and Sharon Milling of Rotterdam, Netherlands and Chattanooga TN, respectively, and Gary Haynes of Tuscon, AZ, and Ann Marie Vanderhout of Newark, DE; his adopted daughter Dawn Miller, soon to be of Alleghany County; his adopted son, Andrew Marcontell, of Dallas, TX; and his wife's chosen girlchild, Sara T. Hoke and her family, of Alleghany County. 

In addition, David leaves behind two generations of Highlands residents for whom his lifelong work was to engage, intrigue, confuse, and inspire as an educator. David entered the profession at the Edgemont Primary School (which he had attended as a first-grader) and retired from Jeter Watson Middle School after valiantly attempting to accommodate the misguided bureaucracy of "No Child Left Behind." 

To many of his countless former students, he was "the one teacher I ever learned from," "the one teacher who listened to me," "the one teacher who made a difference," and he brought to his calling a natural talent and the unshakeable conviction that every student he encountered was worthy of his care, attention, and respect. 

His legacy also includes an untold number of now long-grown men and women whose lives he touched and shaped through his work at the National Capital Area Council's Goshen Scout Camps in Goshen, VA. From 1967 to 1985, David served in multiple leadership roles, beginning as an Aquatics Director, then as Camp Director at camps PMI and Olmsted, and eventually as the reservation director of all six camps at the Goshen Scout Reservation. 

David also earned the Woodbadge, having completed a highly specialized and competitive Boy Scouts of America program designed to teach leadership skills to adults. David was an accomplished porch director, a specialized discipline focused on watching the camp settle in from a busy day from the vantage point of the front porch of the Camps Olmsted and PMI administration building. David was born in Clifton Forge, the son of the late Robert Carl Nicol and the late Jean McMullan Nicol. 

After graduating from Alleghany High School he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent three years in Western Germany as a Military Police Officer, earning an E4 rank and a Marksman rating. On returning to the Highlands he attended Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and earned his B.A. degree in geography from East Tennessee State University, followed by a master's degree from Lynchburg College. 

After moving to Potts Creek in 1967, David quickly became a local favorite, known for his skills as an outdoorsman, for always being on hand when a neighbor needed help, and for his lively sense of humor. All of these traits were vividly on display and appreciated at Sharon and Bun Tingler's Kountry Korners general store and gun shop, where he was a regular customer as well as an unofficial helper and resident entertainer for more than twenty years. 

He was certified as a Hunter safety instructor and was an active member of the Covington Ruritan Club for many years, as well as a contributor to Hunters for the Hungry and the Alleghany Humane Society. Always skilled as a builder and all-around handyman, David was known for his resourcefulness in creative work-arounds and for his occasional, extremely colorful outbursts when thwarted by uncooperative tools or stubborn materials. 

After retirement David was able to indulge his passion for model railroads and discovered a natural talent for designing and building finely detailed scale-model bridges, trestles, and buildings. Many of his structures are to be donated to the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society in Clifton Forge,

David met the love of his life when he and Mary were introduced in 1998 by his dear friend Bob Ragland, by means of a deftly orchestrated special event in Washington, DC, which both he and Mary were equally reluctant to attend. Hosted by another lifelong friend, Mark Knight, this epic evening ended at daybreak, with Mary holding the winning hand after a marathon poker game. Two years later they were married by their friend, the late Mike Wolfe, on Amtrak Train # 51, The Cardinal, between the Staunton and Clifton Forge stations in the Land of Goshen. 

Throughout his married life David reveled in his status as the least henpecked man in Alleghany County and in finding laughter and adventure in their travels, their cherished and diverse extended families, their many eccentric and treasured critters, and their several happy and chaotic homes. At David's explicit request there will be no funeral, memorial service, visitation, or other ceremony or ritual to mark his passing. "I have tried to live my life as a simple person, and I want to leave it in a simple way," he said. 

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a successful life means "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived." 

Those who wish to honor David may make donations in his memory to the Alleghany Humane Society,; Food and Friends, Washington DC,; and/or the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, North Wildwood NJ,

In addition, all are encouraged in his memory to do goofy things that make people smile; to perform acts of gratuitous kindness for those in need of them; and to lead lives attuned to nature and the spiritual world it represents and to which it offers a gateway.

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