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Pamela Nichols served as SJCT president, led campaign for Performing Arts Resource Center | Passages

Pamela Nichols ... May 17, 1945 – May 7, 2009  - Submitted photo
Pamela Nichols ... May 17, 1945 – May 7, 2009
— image credit: Submitted photo

Pam Nichols, whose fund-raising acumen and organization skills led to the funding and construction of the San Juan Community Theatre’s Performing Arts Resource Center, has died.

She and her husband, Charlie Bodenstab, bravely shared her battle with brain cancer on a blog hosted by CaringBridge.org.

Nichols was president of the Visual Arts Museum of San Juan County, which proposed building an accredited arts museum on the islands, and helped negotiate the organization’s merger with Westcott Bay Institute, operator of the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park and the Island Museum of Art. The merger created the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and Sculpture Park, a single organization overseeing the sculpture park at Westcott Bay and the new museum of art at First and West streets.

Her friends and family submitted this obituary:

Pamela Nichols
May 17, 1945 – May 7, 2009

Two dates dominate our sojourn on earth – the day we are born and the day we die, but it is all the time in between that really matters, and the years that Pam Nichols lived mattered a whole lot.

Here is what she had to say not long ago: “Brain cancer would not have been my chosen way to die, but I am not afraid of dying. I am Scandinavian, a realist, and life doesn’t happen the way it should. Life happens the way it happens, sometimes with reasons and sometimes without reasons, but that’s the way it is.”

Pam approached the end of her life with full knowledge of what was coming and she was a champ; absolutely amazing. She did not retreat into herself, she embraced memories of a successful life and career, she shared her hours with people who loved her (and the dogs and cats) and relived fun times with laughter and tears.

She drank champagne and she abandoned decades of watching her weight. She held on to her style, her humor and her dignity. She talked about what was really important: "Charlie is my greatest gift. He made things happen to go with my aspirations, making my life what it is. The kids and grandkids bring such unbridled joy to our lives, and my sister, Nancy, and the rest of my family."

She lived a life of ever-expanding horizons. Travel, sailing, taking on daunting challenges like sky-diving, white-water kayaking, and bungee-jumping, climbing through jungles, and giving an incredible amount of her time and talent to volunteerism. She made new friends and kept the old; she was devoted and faithful to all of them. She was, on the one hand, a tough-minded realist, and on the other a tender romantic, a lover of animals, flowers, and all things beautiful.

In high school, Pam joined the Civil Air Patrol and later became a cadet commander as well as the Minnesota Wing Civil Air Patrol Queen. She was totally self-supporting in college, working as many as three jobs at a time. Pam earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and held positions as a director of corporate staff personnel and the vice president of human resources at ADC Telecommunications.

In 1997, the University of Minnesota honored Pam with an Outstanding Achievement Award, supported by colleagues who praised her dedication. One wrote, “Ms. Nichols truly is a unique person, one who has learned how to balance professional success with extraordinary community involvement.”

We on the island benefited from the best of both of those sides of her. When Pam and her husband, Charlie Bodenstab, retired to San Juan Island, Pam began a new phase of volunteer work. She contributed immeasurably to the San Juan Community Theatre as board president and to the successful campaign to build the Performing Arts Resource Center. Subsequent leadership in the fledgling Visual Arts Museum was a source of well-deserved pride.

Pam loved the island. She adored Charlie, her life with him, and all their family, friends, and pets. She was well and truly loved in return.

Pamela leaves us with wonderful memories of her full and giving life. We’ll miss her.

It was Pamela’s wish that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the San Juan Community Theatre or the Islands Museum of Art and Sculpture Park.

A celebration of Pamela Nichols’ life will be held at the San Juan Community Theatre on Sunday, May 17 at 2 p.m.

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