Mom of seven fought ALS and inspired a community
By Virginia Culver
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 11/24/2007 11:18:36 PM MST
It was in Lisa Nichols' nature to take care of other people.
But in the past few years, neighbors, friends and relatives banded together to take care of her.
Nichols, who for more than three years battled ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease, died of cancer Nov. 15. She was 49.
Friends and neighbors staged a Nichols fundraiser in August 2004 and called it "Band Together."
What started out to be a concert in a driveway turned into a huge event in a Greenwood Village park. Some 2,000 people showed up and Band Together raised $130,000 to help with the needs of Nichols' seven children after her death.
"Lisa was a little mortified about all the attention," said a close friend and neighbor, Susie Roy.
It didn't end there. For months "five meals a week have been arriving at the Nichols house," Roy said.
Friends have driven the Nicholses' kids to events and lessons, picked them up from day care and run other errands.
"She inspired a great community feeling," said Nancy Sharp, mayor of Greenwood Village and one of many involved in the fundraiser. Her illness "was a way for people to get galvanized and show kindness and generosity."
Nichols wanted people to have a "happy experience" after her death, Roy said. So, after the committal service, wine and hors d'oeuvres were served, a harpist played and there was a singalong.
"She was an amazing person in the face of such a horrible and devastating disease," said Leslie Ryan of Denver, director of patient services for the ALS Association. "She faced it with such bravery and grace and taught other people how to deal with it. She had a knowing and listening ear."
Dave Nichols was his wife's biggest fan for the way she mothered their children, her "toughness and brightness" and her faith. To him, "she was just two miracles short of being a saint."
As Lisa Nichols' illness worsened, she used a wheelchair and then a motorized wheelchair. Her right side was unaffected, so she wrote thank-you notes "until her hand couldn't push the pen any more," Roy said.
Lisa Helen Johansing was born in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 30, 1958, and graduated from Mayfield High School there. She took classes at Pasadena City College and the University of California at Santa Barbara.
She met Dave Nichols, a Colorado native, through a mutual friend when they both lived in California. They were married in 1981.
Her faith never wavered, friends and family said, and she told her husband to "make sure the kids keep their faith," he said.
Lisa Nichols also is survived by her four daughters: Molly Nichols, Maggie Nichols, Katie Nichols and Ellie Nichols; and three sons: Daniel Nichols, Joseph Nichols and Peter Nichols, all of Greenwood Village; two sisters; and three brothers.
Virginia Culver: 303-954-1223 or firstname.lastname@example.org Dave and Lisa Nichols have a laugh with son Peter in a 2004 photograph. Lisa Nichols died of cancer after fighting Lou Gehrig's disease for more than three years.