Obituary: Jim Nicholls, 50 years in Breckenridge
Ryan Summerlin April 17, 2012
Sadly and greatly missed, Jim Nicholls succumbed to his illness of cancer Sunday, April 15, 2012. Jim was born in Gary, Indiana in 1935. His parents had moved from Fruita, Colorado, where they grew up, to Gary during the Great Depression for better job prospects. Jim’s love for Colorado led him to CSU for college where he graduated with a degree in forestry, wood utilization. But his Colorado roots extend back to 1878 with his great grandfather mining in Central City/Nevadaville, Leadville, Robinson, & Cripple Creek. Summers in Colorado for Jim were spent working at his uncle’s sheep ranch, one of largest in Colorado, on Pinion Mesa near Grand Junction. Jim came to Breckenridge in Sept. 1961, having been hired by the Summit County Development Corp, the predecessor to Breckenridge Lands and developers of the Breckenridge Ski Area. His job with SCDC involved finding out who owned lands around Breckenridge, where and what to do with the 5,500 acres purchased by SCDC, making signs, and an all around “go-fer.” In 1962-63 he commuted to Vail to work for the architectural firm of Fitzhugh Scott, the designer of early Vail, before there was an I-70 interstate. He then taught skiing for the Breckenridge Ski School winters and began his own design business in Breckenridge. In 1963 Jim bought the property on the corner of Ridge & Adams, where he continually resided for 49 years, adding on twice to the original log house.In 1965 Jim met Maureen Sloan skiing at Breckenridge; he an instructor, she on the National Ski Patrol and a Colorado Springs history-English teacher. They married in June, 1966, and raised three daughters in Breckenridge; Kristie Hoffman of Alma, Carrie Francomano of Towson, Md., and Jill Ball of Seattle. Jim had three granddaughters who also mourn his death. Soon after marriage, Jim and Maureen earned their real estate licenses and Jim began his career as a land developer, opening Breckenridge Investment Company. He continued to design many houses in Breckenridge and new Dillon during the 1960s-1990s. He served on Dillon’s planning commission in the 1960s and on Breckenridge’s planning commission in the 1970s and 1980s. Jim also joined the Breckenridge Fire Department for 18 years when it was entirely a volunteer organization.In the early 1970s, Jim and two partners bought the Dillon Marina from John Bailey of Dillon and redeveloped the facilities. He also raced Ensign sailboats on Lake Dillon for many years. Another one of Jim’s pursuits was hunting big game, and he was successful most years, providing elk for the freezer. Jim was an avid fly fisherman, a Boy Scout leader, and particularly interested in the 4-H horse program when his three daughters became active in horsemanship. Naturally he used those horses for hunting!Jim’s artistic heritage and talent led him to the art business and he began Paint Horse Gallery, a western art gallery at 226 S. Main in his yellow Victorian commercial building. In front of his building he placed a popular life-sized bronze burro sculpture entitled, “A Friend to Lean On.” After selling the fine art aspect of Paint Horse, he concentrated putting together cowboy and Indian museum quality antique artifacts in his last gallery, Cowboy Stuff. A memorial service for Jim will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St Mary’s Church, 115 S. French St., Breckenridge. A reception will be held immediately after at Mi Casa Restaurant, 600 S. Park Ave. In lieu of flowers, the family of Jim Nicholls request donations or to the Summit Historical Society, Wakefield Project,(a future Breckenridge historic sawmill) Box 745, Breckenridge, Co. 80424 or to Bristlecone Hospice Foundation, Box 1327, Frisco, Co.