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Jennifer Nicholson Brought Light, Love And Joy To Those Around Her

I remember one time running into Jennifer Nicholson on the Hamilton County Courthouse Square in downtown Noblesville just before Christmas a little more than three years ago, and asking, what makes her smile?

“My grandchildren, always, and their voices when they sing or laugh or play,” the music teacher replied to me. Jennifer Nicholson and husband, Dave, were downtown with their then 5-year-old grandson, Landen, at Noble Coffee & Tea. At the time, Landen was in pre-kindergarten at Noblesville First United Methodist Preschool, where his grandma taught music.

”We are just running some errands, and he likes to come downtown Noblesville and walk around the Courthouse and go see the (historic) courtroom. We just love being out together,” she told me. She was heading out to teach music lessons after their visit.

Jennifer Nicholson — a retired Noblesville High School music teacher who directed the NHS Singers and who later taught music at Noble Crossing Elementary and also taught private music lessons (voice and piano and beginner guitar), was a professional vocalist, inspirational speaker and coach of Girls on the Run — loved her family, loved singing and acting, and loved teaching music to children. She was a treasure in our community and loved by many.

And my heart is breaking today with the recent news of the loss of this wonderful individual in our community. By now, many of our readers have already heard the sad news of Jennifer Nicholson’s passing on Saturday night (Feb. 19). She was 63.

Her husband, Dave, posted on Facebook Sunday morning: “Dear friends, Jennifer was always better at posting on Facebook. It is with a breaking heart that I let you know she died last night. She is celebrating with Jesus, for that we give great thanks! Love each other deeply, give each other hugs, celebrate with music, love Jesus totally. As Jen would say, ‘Music moves the soul like nothing else can.’”

She had just undergone a successful surgery for a torn meniscus, a common knee injury, on Thursday morning (Feb. 17). On Saturday night, she threw a blood clot that went to her heart causing a heart attack.

Noblesville’s Moffett Craig said it best: “Jennifer Nicholson brought light, love, joy, compassion, strength, and laughter to so many,” including her high-school-age grandson, Johnathan Baker, who studied music with Nicholson. I even attended one of his recitals at the First Presbyterian Church. Hundreds of people have reacted and commented on Dave Nicholson’s Facebook post and created their own Facebook posts, sharing Jennifer Nicholson memories.

She loved life. “I’m 60 and proud of it,” she told me during our conversation in December 2018, after celebrating the milestone just three months earlier. She said for Christmas that year, she and Dave received a beautiful photo of all of their grandkids. “That’s our favorite gift, besides our kids and grandkids.” She loved her grandchildren and was especially proud that granddaughter Claire has grandma’s red hair.

She was all about living life to the fullest. Every photo that I’ve seen of Jennifer, she is smiling, sharing fun times with her family, husband, children, grandchildren and friends. There are photos of Jennifer and Dave sledding at Forest Park with grandkids, skydiving on their wedding anniversary and Jennifer arriving to see her lifelong idol Carol Burnett at the Chicago Theatre. There was also a photo of Nicholson singing the National Anthem, “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Back Home Again in Indiana” atthe Indiana/Kentucky All-Star Game in June.

So many beautiful photos, so many wonderful memories that we all have of Jennifer Nicholson.

She was born Sept. 18, 1958, graduated from Bloomington South High School in 1976 and from Indiana University in 1980, just a year after marrying husband, Dave Nicholson, on May 26, 1979. They met at IU. The couple and their two children, Joshua and Hannah, originally came to Noblesville to plant a new Free Methodist Church and led the Noblesville Open Door congregation. Then Dave was asked to start Noblesville Police Department’s chaplain program, which is still going today and for which he has been honored.

For Christmas, Jennifer Nicholson performed as a Dickens Caroler in hired professional quartets for holiday parties. But how I remember her most was her acting and singing in plays and musicals at The Belfry Theatre in Noblesville.

In 2018, she was nominated for Encore Association’s Best Female Singer and Best Lead Actress in a Musical for “Nunsense II: The Second Coming” during The Belfry’s 2017-18 season. Dave Nicholson helped with the set construction on the show.

In “Nunsense II,” Jennifer Nicholson portrayed the Rev. Mother Mary Regina. It was just 22 years prior, in 1993, she played Sister Mary Hubert in the same musical at The Belfry. She also played Sister Hubert in 2015 and 1992, in the original “Nunsense.” Her favorite song in “Nunsense?” “I like ‘Holier Than Thou,’ because I get to be crazy and wild,” she told me in 2015 during the run of “Nunsense.” Noblesville’s Carla Crandall acted alongside Jennifer Nicholson in “Nunsense” and “Nunsense II,” directed by Noblesville’s Elaine Wagner, then Crandall directed both “Nunsense” and “Nunsense II” in 2015 and 2018, respectively. In 2018, Jennifer Nicholson acted alongside Johnathan Baker, Anna Neal, Maddux Morrison, Abigail Pittman, Addie Cooley, Katelyn King, Kylee Booher, Cathie Morgan, Diane Reed, Kalea Spurlock, twins Meredith Milburn and Morgan Milburn, Nancy Rairdon, Jennifer Poynter, Rosie Allenson, Michael Lipphardt and a slew of other actors who are likely thankful they had the opportunity to perform alongside the talented Jennifer Nicholson.

Crandall said while their paths only crossed at The Belfry, she “couldn’t fathom the world without Jennifer Nicholson and her bright and shining light.”

In 2016, Jennifer Nicholson was nominated for Encore Association’s Best Major Supporting Actress in a Play, for “Cheaper by the Dozen.” She played the role of the mom, Mrs. Gilbreth, also directed by Crandall, at The Belfry.

Then in 2021, when Crandall directed “Cheaper by the Dozen” again, she called on Jennifer Nicholson after the actress who played Mrs. Gilbreth became ill on the day of a performance.

Crandall learned at 2 p.m. that she wouldn’t have the cast member for the 8 p.m. performance on the Thursday of the show’s second weekend and called Jennifer Nicholson at 3 p.m. to see if she would walk on for the 8 p.m. performance as well as the entire weekend’s remaining performances. So Jennifer and Dave (who was to be honored that night at another event) talked it over, she found her old script and agreed to meet at 5 p.m. to learn the blocking and rehearse the show. On that night, by showtime, Jennifer Nicholson had the play almost memorized for Act I, and looked at her script only occasionally for Act II. By Friday night, the actress didn’t even carry her script, Crandall said.

“What a blessing God gave to me,” she said. “… What a blessing that Jennifer could come in and do that part … It was the greatest gift I could have received from Jennifer. It was just wonderful. The audience got to see Jennifer on stage one last time in a totally unexpected opportunity.”

When explained how Jennifer Nicholson had joined the cast in the curtain speech to the audience, she received a standing ovation.

Crandall said, “Her whole life deserves a standing ovation.”

A Celebration of Life will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Noblesville First United Methodist Church with visitation beginning at 10 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are encouraged and may be directed to the Jennifer Nicholson Music Scholarship Fund.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Read the full obituary in today’s edition of The Times.