Longtime Wilton resident Albert G. Nickel, 72, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Nov. 21. The only thing greater than the loss that is felt is the difference Al made in the lives of the people who knew him. For all who did, they would not have been surprised to know that Al was attending a charity event at the Plaza Hotel in New York, sporting a tuxedo and vigorously bidding on silent auction items. Complications from a tragic fall that night ended his life a few days later. He passed away at Weill Cornell Medical Center surrounded by his “girls”– wife, Dana, and daughters, Grace and Olivia.
A retired healthcare executive, Al lived his life in a state of amazing perpetual motion, rarely letting a moment go to waste. Mornings would find him either at his beloved YMCA gym or attending mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church. And then into the day–depending on the season, nine holes of golf, a vigorous bike ride, kayaking, snowshoeing, paddle or tennis.
And that was just the morning. Afternoons or evenings could find him at his daughters’ athletic events, pacing the sidelines and cheering them on (with sometimes a “suggestion” to the referee) or later venturing out to various board meetings or gala charity events.
Hard work and success seem to have been encoded into Al’s genes. He took his first job at the tender age of five, delivering newspapers with his entrepreneurial brothers. Al went on to serve in The United States Air Force, ultimately being promoted to the rank of Captain in the Air Force Reserves. It was all uphill from there. A graduate of Washington & Jefferson College and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Al moved to New York City where in 1974, he embarked on a long-standing career as an advertising executive in various firms: Account Executive at Sudler & Hennessey; a founding principal of Dorritie & Lyons, Inc. (later Dorritie Lyons & Nickel, Inc.); after a corporate acquisition, President and CEO of Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift, Co-Chairman of TBWA WorldHealth and finally in 2006, Chairman of LyonHeart.
He retired in 2008 and was inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame in 2012. For four decades, Al always considered the agency as his home and his co-workers as family.
But not everything in Al’s life was joyful.
He suffered the tragedy that no parent can bear to contemplate — the loss of not one, but two of his children, Mark and Melissa.
Yet rather than become embittered, Al drew upon his deep and abiding faith in God and his church, always knowing that he could overcome adversity by believing, trusting and doing good works that were so characteristic of Al. And so he was given the gift of his second family, a wife and two daughters to whom he dedicated his time, his life and his all, exclaiming frequently, “Every day is Father’s Day.”
Al lived by the wisdom that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more”. And so his second love was philanthropy, to which his extensive involvement in the community can attest.
He served as a trustee of the Wilton YMCA, CancerCare and Washington & Jefferson College and on the Board of Directors of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County. He also treasured his involvement with The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and the Orthopaedic Foundation. In 2002, Al was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented annually to citizens who exemplify the values of the American Dream.
Al’s serves as an example of a life well-lived with countless good friends, a loving family and a steadfast faith that ultimately enabled him to contribute so significantly to brightening the lives of all those around him. Though Al’s passing will be a heavy cross for us to bear, we will try to live by his example, looking at our glass not just half but all the way full, as he always did.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 229 Danbury Rd.. Interment will follow at Hillside Cemetery, Wilton. In lieu of flowers, please make any contributions to the Wilton YMCA, the Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County or The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.