Ellen Roush Nickell, age 94 (almost), died August 31, 2023, in Pittsburgh, PA, surrounded by her family.
Born September 22, 1929, in Beckley, WV, she was the youngest of Homer and Gertrude Roush’s four children. Homer died when Ellen was three years old, and her remarkable mother raised the children to be grateful for what they had, instead of feeling deprived of what they lacked. Her parents were both educators, and a generous aunt and uncle made it possible for Ellen to follow in their footsteps by paying for her to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1951.
In 1955 she married Pat Nickell, who had been her crush since fourth grade. They were married 56 years until his death in 2011. Together they raised three children and built a life grounded in love, faith in God, generosity, and service to others. As her daughter-in-law once said, Ellen was born to be grandma, and she adored her three grandchildren and took great pride in their achievements. Having outlived her siblings and many friends, she became a second mom to her nieces, daughters-in-law, and younger friends.
Her teaching career began at Sophia High School and ended with more than twenty years as a Chapter One reading specialist at Academy Primary School. In between she was a substitute teacher, who was popular with teachers because they knew she would actually teach when she subbed. She was less popular with students for the same reason, but she rewarded them when they finished their work by reading them Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories. She continued to be active in the life of WV Wesleyan College, where Pat worked his entire career. Ellen earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Wesleyan in 1977, was past president of the Emeritus Club, and received the college’s alumni award in 2012.
A longtime member of First United Methodist Church in Buckhannon, Ellen had served as Sunday School Superintendent, president of United Methodist Women, and on many committees. She continued to be part of the prayer shawl ministry and was nurtured by the fellowship of the women in the Early Birds prayer group since it began in 1989. Quoting lyrics by her dear friend Natalie Sleeth, she faced both life and death with the belief that “It’s all in the hands of God.” Other community service included leading the Upshurite 4-H club and being a board member of the Upshur Parish House and the Gibson Library.
After Pat’s death, she and her bridge buddies (a.k.a. the Golden Girls, a.k.a. Thelma and Louise and Thelma and Louise), took several bus trips around the country and spent time in Florida each winter.
Ellen was known for her genuine interest in everyone she met, her love of children, her ready laugh, her colorful sense of fashion, and her competitive spirit. She played in one or more bridge clubs her entire adult life. In spirited family game nights, she never went easy on the grandchildren, so they could learn how to both win and lose graciously. She was a wonderful baker known for her fluffy angel biscuits, flaky pie crusts, homemade bread, and apologizing that whatever delicacy she baked was not her best effort. Having grown up the alto in a family of singers, she could sing harmony to most camp songs and anything in the Methodist hymnal.
Relying on her indomitable spirit and strength of will, she lived independently in the home she and Pat built until a week before her death. Her family is unendingly grateful to the close community of Buckhannon that was her home for 75 years, and to the friends who gave her rides, brought her food, helped her with tech problems, and offered many other acts of kindness that supported her independence.
Ellen is survived by three children, Van Nickell and his wife Karen of Sewickley, PA, Jane Ellen Nickell of Meadville, PA, and Wesley Nickell and his wife Jenny of Wheeling, WV; three grandchildren, Chris Nickell and their wife Brenda Gonzalez of New York, NY, and Liz and Jacob Nickell of Wheeling, WV; a foster great-grandson, Anthony Winds of New York, NY; one sister-in-law; several nieces and nephews; and many, many friends.
A celebration of Ellen’s life will be scheduled later in the year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you honor Ellen’s legacy of education with a donation to the Roush-Nickell Scholarship Fund at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Donations may be sent to 59 College Ave, Buckhannon, WV, 26201 or online at www.wvwc.edu/give.
Online condolences may be made to the family at www.polingstclair.com. Poling-St. Clair Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.