D. Earl Hurst Remarks at Funeral Services
Sister Grace Nicol
New Orleans Ward Chapel
29 January 1975
I feel most inadequate with the responsibility of offering a eulogy that could in some way be representative of the greatness of character of the person about whose remarks are intended.
This is a sad moment for all of us when we see our loved ones depart. We, not members of the family, sense your feelings…likewise, sense your loss. Sister Grace was in a very true sense a very intimate and dear part of each of us.
We know that in the last days, weeks and months of Sister Grace’s life she wasn’t able to be the Sister Grace like we knew and want to remember. We know the suffering and pain she endured at the end…and now we’re relieved to know that this mortal anguish and vicissitudes can grip her no more… that pain is gone forever. I noted how peaceful she looked last night at the viewing.
It is unfortunate that no single person can stand her and extol all the virtues of the good life Grace led…not all 77 years of it, but we are not here to convince those in attendance here today of Sister Nicol’s accomplishments; but rather we are here to honor her and in whatever way to reinforce this family in their dark hour. The accountability for Sister Nicol’s life has long since been recorded in the Lamb’s book of life…and nothing we say here will be long remembered nor will influence what is written here.
One of the notable claims I have in my life is that I belong to the same vintage era that Grace did…that of the era of the “old B.K.A. days.” And while I was only a part of it for 3 or 4 years of that 25 years era, none-the-less I was there…and on center stage of everything that was going on was this Grace Nicol.
I met Grace 27 years ago up on the infamous third floor of the BKA Hall one Sunday morning. I was a fresh, young college graduate and knew almost everything there was to know. I was an ordained Elder and too proud to admit I knew almost nothing about the doctrines of the church, but I was about to learn.
That first Sunday morning John Nugent was conducting Sunday School, and his sister, Grace Nicol, was the Sunday School teacher. Perhaps we could add here…she was also President of the YWMIA, a Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, and if memory serves me right, ran her own home Primary. But she totally disarmed me…and I found myself listening and asking questions about the Book of Mormon for the first time in my life. I was admitting my ignorance and she was teaching me…and all of us know in what high esteem we hold someone who teaches us something. To this day, I considered Grace Nicol one of the great local authorities on the Book of Mormon.
Like many others who came to New Orleans to live shortly after the end of World War II, I found no difficulty finding fault with the city and I soon realized that, with her, I was stepping on “sacred ground.” I never really knew whether it was because she so strongly despised her homesteading nightmare in the Montana wilderness or whether she just loved New Orleans independently, but there was no greater champion. Unintentionally, I occasionally reduced her to tears saying unkind things about the city.
Those BKA Hall days were great! There was a spirit of closeness and camaraderie that we don’t see in the larger units of the church today. Frequently, after Sunday School, all the members would join together in City Park for a picnic lunch. We all felt very close and dependent upon one another. The Nicols, the Fifes—Walter and Helen, Joseph and Dee—the Ruperts, the Nichols, the Butlers, the Larsons, the Guilotts, and many others regularly gathered there…and with that closeness to Fifes, it was not at al hard to understand how she might have had a slip of the tongue one day in fast and testimony meeting with all her exuberance that she always displayed, declared “And I know that Joseph is a Prophet of God.” It sounded so natural and appropriate that no one notices the slip until moments later.
We called Mae and Bob Evans last night to tell them of Grace’s passing and after a stunned silence, Bob declared, “My heavens, Grace was an institution. I also called Mayola Miltenberger and she said almost the same words as Mae and Bob…”Never has anyone worked so hard and so faithfully to make something go as Grace Nicol…never a more dependable and forthright person ever!”
And while this chapel is full, the travesty of all this is that the people she has influenced for good could fill an entire stake. To think that this little branch which had an attendance of 25 or 30 people has been the embryo of this entire stake…and she, more than any single person, caused it to proper and grow. Three people at the viewing last evening told me that the first church member they met when they came to New Orleans to live was Grace Nicol. She was close to being omnipresent.
Helen Fife was there last night and she recalled an everlasting memory about Grace coming to her house to an M.I.A. function dressed as a little Dutch girl with blond hair and pigtails just to reinforce the point of the function…and that was travelling from Arabi to Jefferson and probably on public transportation.
It seemed altogether fitting and proper that she should serve in the earlier days in the New Orleans Stake Presidency. I’m sure the only female in the church to serve as the Historical Clerk…Hysterical Clerk as she called herself.
But her great work was her family as testified by their presence here today…all responsible citizens, raising families. I can still see the Nicols coming in by streetcar from Arabi to the BKA Hall; and on those few occasions that they didn’t make it, attendance dropped 40%.
Two weeks ago our visiting General Authority was ElRay L. Christiansen. In the few moments before his plane departure, he wanted a nostalgic run by the site of the old BKA Hall. While it was gone, all else was the same…the old City Hall, Lafayette Square, even the Carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras parade bleachers. It was there he turned to me and asked, “How is Grace Nicol?” My wife was up on the situation and responded, “She is not well!” “I’ll never forget that great spirit,” he said.
When Sister Grace was privileged to go to the Salt Lake Temple to receive her endowments, she was greeted by some anti-Mormons just outside the walls of Temple Square and they queried her in a snide manner, “Sister, are you saved?” To which she responded, as only Grace Nicol could, “I don’t know. I haven’t endured to the end yet.”
Well, I submit that now she has endured to the end. She has fought the good fight. She has finished her course. She has kept the faith. How very grateful we are as we stand here that she has not only endured with us, but has blessed the lives of everyone of us here—for which we shall forever be in her debt.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.