A Lesson in Perseverance and Resilience, What Is Your Superpower?

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Roderick Nichols was born on November 8th, 1914 and he opened a radio repair business in 1935. Three short years later a hurricane flooded the space, forcing him to start over. On the other side of the city of Willimantic, Connecticut he rebuilt his business. In 1941 he became interested in refrigeration and was a leader in providing refrigeration services in the area.

One day Mr. Nichols was working underneath an automobile tracing the car’s radio wires to the source of some trouble. As dusk approached, the vehicle’s owner found him there under the car. The room was darkening and the customer became impatient since Mr. Nichols had not completed the work or turned on a light to see better in the darkness, “How do you expect to do a job like that in the dark?” Well, you see Mr. Nichols was blind. When he was six years old he sustained an eye injury in a baseball accident and by the time he was twelve further complications had caused him to become completely blind in both eyes. Known as Rick, his friends and customers didn’t hear him talk of his difficulties, instead, he put life this way “Accept what’s happened. The future belongs to those who can go out and capture it.”

I learned about Mr. Nichols from Roland Frechette, a friend of mine and a brave friend of 4-H, having volunteered as a tasting judge for our first 4-H teen cooking contest. This summer, we hope to build a Lee County teen team to compete in the second annual Dinah Gore 4-H Healthy Food Challenge Contest. Mr. Frechette, I sure hope you are available!

Before retiring, Mr. Frechette owned a restaurant and Rick was his electric and refrigeration repairman. One Sunday Mr. Frechette caught me after church and shared the following fun and “shocking” stories with me.

“My ice cream freezer stopped working. Being new to the area I got my customer, a local contractor named Don, to recommend a repair service. An hour later Don came in with this blind man. How nice, I thought, Don brought this man out for a day trip. This was until he asked me to direct him to the freezer. Rick put his hand on the freezer, reached under it, and turned it back on!”

“After my dishwashing machine motor stopped working, I also called Rick, who was able to replace the motor having never worked on a commercial machine before!”

“I needed to put in an air conditioning unit so I called Rick to do the necessary plumbing and electrical work on the water cooling, stand up unit. He called in his son, Alan, and verbally directed the steps to wiring up the electrical box. After three hours of plumbing and wiring, Rick, unafraid of the shock, felt and pressed the 200 amp button but it didn’t start. Rick told his son, “If I could see I would kick your butt.” It turns out the panel’s off/on switch was reversed.”

It is clear to me how much Rick’s qualities of perseverance, determination, and resilience are admired by Mr. Frechette and the other customers who used his services over his fifty-nine years. Mr. Nichols died in 1975 but his memory lives on.

We have an electric project program in 4-H consisting of kits, workshops, record books, and state trips. This year thirty-two circuit projects were provided, ten young people learned to solder in a summer workshop, one person won the state electric congress trip and I am waiting to see how many applicants will apply to attend the 4-H Electric Congress in 2022. If Rick Nichols were alive today I would invite him to be a guest speaker for our program. He once shared with a journalist that minor electrical shocks were part of the job. Here at 4-H, the soldering irons are hot but the circuits are not thanks to the supplies, training, and curriculum we have in our 4-H electric program for youth and volunteers.

As we head into a new year, remember Mr. Nichol’s words, “The future belongs to those who go out and capture it.” Mr. Nichols sees in the dark. Mr. Frechette is a storyteller. What will be YOUR 2022 superpower? Do you want to become a volunteer or judge like Mr. Frechette and meet a teen cooking dynamo, future lineman, or a new young friend? Together we can build a bridge over the widening generation gap.

Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4H’s programs are available in Lee County and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use every day to improve your life. The resources for this story were newspaper clippings as well as written, and verbal notes from the memory of Roland Frechette. The feature photo is copied from a clipped newspaper article of unknown origin.