Joseph J. Nicholson passed away on Monday, May 8, 2017 at the age of 98. He was predeceased by his wife Dorothy Reilly Nicholson. Joseph was born on July 7, 1918 in Newport’s old Fifth Ward to Joseph and Mary (“Tade” Sullivan) Nicholson of Adrigole and Trafask, Ireland. He graduated at the top of his class from De La Salle Academy, class of 1936, and put himself through Providence College, class of 1940, working at the Newport Country Club as the chief caddy. After a short stint at the Torpedo Station, he moved to Washington, D.C. to attend law school at Georgetown University while working at the U.S. Department of State.
Joseph joined the Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After completing an accelerated officer training program at Columbia University, he was assigned to LST 308 and remained on that ship as Executive Officer until the end of the war. Known as the “old man” on the ship at age 24, he participated in the major invasions in the European theater, including Anzio, Salerno and Normandy. Following service in the Naval Reserves, he retired as a lieutenant commander.
He began the practice of law in the office of John Nolan and Arthur J. Sullivan in 1948. He continued a busy and successful career until his retirement at the age of 90 when he continued his second career as principal caregiver to his wife Dorothy. He was a caring husband and father, and his children are in awe of his devotion and loyalty.
Joe was active in many community organizations including serving as a trustee of the Newport Preservation Society for many years, a member of the board of the Visiting Nurses of Newport County, and BankNewport, and a long time member of the parish council of St. Joseph’s Church. He was active in politics, serving on the Newport City Council and chairing the Newport Democratic Committee. For many years he was the town solicitor and then Probate Judge in the Town of Middletown.
He is survived by his children Dorothy M. Nicholson, M.D. of Arlington, Virginia, Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr., Esq. (Jennifer) of Newport and Attorney Mary Sampson (Craig) of Middletown. He leaves his grandchildren Peter Elbaor, Caitlin, James and Christian Nicholson, and Patrick and Claire Sampson. He is also survived by his sister Mary Pedro of Newport and nieces and a nephew. In addition to his wife, he was predeceased by his brother George, brothers-in-law Anthony Pedro and James J. Reilly, and sister-in-law Rita Price.
Visiting hours will be held from 4-7 pm on Friday, May 12, 2017 in the O’Neill-Hayes Funeral Home, 465 Spring Street, Newport, RI. A Mass of Christian will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Church, corner of Broadway & Mann Avenue, Newport at 10 am. Burial will follow in St. Columba Cemetery, Brown’s Lane, Middletown.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph’s Church, 5 Mann Ave., Newport, RI 02840.
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