The Cal-Nev-Ha Kiwanis family suffered a great loss this year with the passing of John Nichelson on January 1st and his beloved wife Elaine on May 31st. Both were 96 years old and had been married for 76 years.
John devoted his life to Kiwanis and community service. After joining the Kiwanis Club of Gardena in 1968, John was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1969-70, served as Distinguished Club President in 1972-73, as Division 19 Lt. Governor in 1976-77, and as the District’s Resolutions Chairman from 1999-2001.
John’s passion within Kiwanis was the Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs. He served as District Administrator to both Key Club and Circle K. Additionally, John was a long-time advisor to the CSU Dominguez Hills Circle K club and the Key Clubs at Gardena and CAMS High Schools.
The recipient of numerous Kiwanis awards, John was most proud of the two bestowed on him by the youth he served – the Kiwanis International Hixson Award and the CNH Foundation’s Dunlap Award.
In 2006, John was selected as the recipient of Circle K International’s highest honor, the Circle of Service award. Only five people from the Cal-Nev-Ha District have received this award. In 2018, the CNH Circle K District named the Kiwanis Advisor of the Year award for John, now known as the John Nichelson Kiwanis Advisor of the Year award.
Elaine always had a warm smile and a friendly word for all she encountered. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great talent in the kitchen, but her greatest impact was the support she gave to John through Kiwanis.
Circle K International (CKI) has always been a progressive organization. It became co-ed in the 70's, while Kiwanis did not become co-ed until 1987. During the 80's a majority of the CNH CKI Governors were female. During this decade it was difficult for the women CKI Governors to relate to their all male sponsors. While John served as the District Administrator, it was Elaine who stepped up to be a primary female mentor to the women in CKI. In 1990, the Cal-Nev-Ha District of Circle K recognized Elaine as the "Woman of the Decade."
Over the years, John and Elaine advised and mentored thousands of youth, providing them with leadership training and encouraging their participation in community service. The John and Elaine Nichelson Memorial Scholarship will both honor their work and ensure their legacy.