Donovan Lee “Jack” Nicol, 90, passed away quietly at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020.
Jack was born in Bend on May 12, 1930, to Henry “Nick” Nicol and Marie Kittredge Nicol. Following the death of his mother in 1931 when he was only a year-old, Jack was raised by his grandparents, William “Bill Kitt,” and Maude Kittredge on the family’s Oregon ranches –– the YJ Ranch at Klamath Marsh and the MC Ranch in Warner Valley. Here, Jack experienced a unique start to life, working alongside his grandfather on the ranches. It was a life of summers spent horseback on a historic desert chuck-wagon outfit, and working on large haying crews with horse-drawn equipment.
Following graduation from Klamath Union High School in 1949, Jack attended Oregon State University before joining the U.S. Air Force where he served on a B-50 bomber crew. He then returned to Warner Valley to take over his father, Henry Nicol’s, farming operation on the MC Ranch when he died from a heart attack.
In 1952, Jack married Maryann O’Connor and the following year they moved to Adel. A son, Mark, was born in 1953 and daughter, Dana, in 1954. This same year, Bill Kitt decided he needed new ranch management, and unexpectedly tapped Jack on the shoulder, and told him he was to take charge of the vast MC Ranch.
As Jack would later say, “I was only 24, and running an outfit that large was a trial by fire, but I had a lot to prove, and I did it.” He managed the MC until it sold in 1967. Jack then started Nicol Land and Cattle Company to invest in ranching properties, and together with his son, Mark, and daughter, Dana, eventually owned and managed 28,000 acres in Oregon and California. After the ranching properties were sold in 1989, Jack helped to build the firm into a diversified investment company now based in Nashville, Tenn. and San Diego, Calif. with operations in ten states. Jack’s common sense and long-term vision have been critical to this success.
In the 1980s Jack acquired a residence in Rancho Mirage, Calif. and joined Mission Hills Country Club, where he was a member for 27 years.
Jack met Barbara Diamond in 1993, and they were companions for nearly twenty years, residing in Rancho Mirage and Sunriver. He greatly enjoyed his years with Barbara, playing golf and traveling around the world.
With an enduring commitment to his family and its unique history, Jack wrote, after years of research, “Bill Kitt, From Trail Driver to Cowboy Hall of Fame” with his niece, Amy Thompson. Published in 2009, the 450-page regional history and biography in memory of his grandparents, William “Bill Kitt” and Maude Kittredge, was a great success – and tribute to his determination that the truth be told, and history preserved. Continuing his dedication to protecting the rich ranching heritage of Oregon’s Outback, Jack envisioned, designed, developed and funded the MC Chuck Wagon Exhibit and Western Heritage Museum in Lakeview. He gifted the project to the Town of Lakeview at a grand opening celebration on August 10, 2013.
Jack spent his final years in San Diego, Calif. His appreciation for classical music led him to host numerous concerts featuring world-renowned violinist and dear friend, Jela Spitkova, for friends, church congregations and retirement communities.
Well-read and well-traveled, Jack demonstrated incisive common sense and a remarkable encyclopedic memory to the end. His mind ever-active, he would say with a smile, “It’s a big job keeping up with a young heart and mind.”
Jack often said, “I’ve had a wonderful life.” His unique journey bridged the day-to-day life of buckaroos and bunkhouses in eastern Oregon, to the coat and tie business world, and Mission Hills clubhouse life of Rancho Mirage. He also built meaningful friendships within the Sunriver Christian Fellowship Church and Village Community Presbyterian Church communities, and in recent years, with his dedicated caregivers. Jack’s engaging sense of humor and gregarious spirit, coupled with integrity and appreciation for fellowship, made him a trusted and valued friend of many, from all walks of life.
Donovan “Jack” Nicol is survived by: son, Mark E. Nicol; daughter, Dana Nicol; sister, Nancy Thompson; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at The Village Community Presbyterian Church in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. prior to interment at Klamath Memorial Park in Klamath Falls.