Henry Nice

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Daily Press
April 3, 1992

HENRY L. NICE, 100, ARCHITECT, BUILDER

Henry L. Nice, who would have celebrated his 101st birthday on June 19, died Thursday.

Mr. Nice was born in 1891 in Roseland, Neb., the youngest in a family of six children. He moved to the Peninsula with his parents in 1921. He was a self-employed carpenter for much of his life, also drawing his own blueprints and teaching his sons his trade. As an architect, he enjoyed working with his five sons at Nice Brothers Construction in Newport News in building many homes in various areas of the Peninsula. He also farmed at Nicewood for 15 years.

Computers at the Division of Motor Vehicles went crazy last fall when Mr. Nice tried to renew his drivers’ license. ”It kept listing me as too young for a permit. I was born on June 19, 1891, and the computer only went back to 1900,” he said in an interview with Virginia Biggins of the Daily Press. The confusion was cleared up and his license was renewed. His daughter, Ruby Ziegler of Newport News, said, ”He drove to church every Sunday morning and then to our house for dinner.”

Still active and alert at the age of 100, Mr. Nice lived alone with his pet dog, although his children would drop in daily to check on him. ”Most of his spare time was centered around the church,” said another daughter, Dorothy Blosser of Harrisonburg. A member of Warwick River Mennonite Church, he was ordained a deacon in 1946 and served in that capacity for a number of years.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday, the church held special services in his honor. His 19 grandsons sang at the service and family members from throughout the country were on hand to help in the celebration.

”He was always quick to say he had 64 great-grandchildren,” said Ziegler.

Mr. Nice, an Army veteran of World War I, was recognized by the Denbigh Lion’s Club in 1991 as one of the oldest veterans living in the Denbigh area. He joined the Army in St. Charles, La., and after attending officers’ training school in Arkansas, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September 1918.

He studied architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Blosser described her father as a ”man who gave of himself but never drew attention to himself.” ”He kept his life pure and clean. He was an honest man and a very generous person who always tried to meet the needs that came to him,” she said. ”And he never complained.”

Regarding his longevity, Blosser said, ”He didn’t think about how old he was. He just lived.”

He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Lula Jones Nice, in 1987.

Mr. Nice is survived by four daughters, Ruby N. Ziegler and Irene Heatwole of Newport News, Dorothy M. Blosser of Harrisonburg, and Bertha M. Schaefer of Powhatan; five sons, Henry R. Nice and Cecil H. Nice of Newport News, Daniel B. Nice and George J. Nice of Williamsburg and Louis B. Nice of Providence Forge; 37 grandchildren and 64 great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends from 7:30 to 8:30 tonight at W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home. A funeral service will be conducted at 10 a.m. Saturday at Warwick River Mennonite Church by the Revs. George Brunk II and Gordon Zook. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Warwick River Mennonite Church Brotherhood Fund, 252 Lucas Creek Road, Newport News 23602; or the Gideon Living Memorial Bible Fund, P.O. Box 6373, Newport News 23606.

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