1938-2010 | Floyd Nicholson

A former army technician, he was devoted to his family and business. But at 71 he wanted to slow down, and do some fishing.

Floyd Nicholson was born in Halifax on Nov. 30, 1938, the first child of Samuel, who worked in maintenance, and Ella Mae Nicholson.

He grew up in Spryfield, a working-class suburb, where his family’s small home quickly filled with five younger siblings. Because their parents had a hands-off approach, the kids often came and went at all hours. “People were surprised by how much freedom we had,” says Wayne, Floyd’s younger brother. “We only had two rules. Don’t touch anything that don’t belong to you and don’t be around when something bad goes down.”

Those rules put a strong independent streak in Floyd, and he spent a lot of time away from home. He’d often be off fishing with buddies, which is where he started his lifelong habit of smoking a pipe—it kept the blackflies away. But he still loved being with his siblings. “I remember hanging off him while he was flying model airplanes,” says Wayne. “I wanted to go everywhere he went.”

Still, the small house was cramped, so when Floyd finished Grade 10 he decided to join the air force. A natural tinkerer and handyman, he became an electronics technician and took to the training so quickly that he was immediately made an instructor at CFB Borden in Ontario. “There’s nothing he couldn’t learn or fix,” says Wayne. “They used to call him the professor.”

Floyd was stationed in Baden-Baden, Germany, through the early 1960s. He’d use his leave to travel around the country’s beer halls, and was able to see most of Europe. But he did start to miss home. After 10 years of service, Floyd left the military and moved back to Nova Scotia, where he bombed around in a blue MG and maintained torpedoes as a civilian at an armoury in Bedford.

In 1965, a mutual friend introduced him to Paulette Carter, who instantly took a shine to the easygoing young man with a penchant for British roadsters. “He was just a smart guy,” says Paulette, “and besides that he had a sports car.” After two years of movies, dancing and double dates, the pair married and moved to a house in Spryfield. Their first daughter, Kathleen, was born in 1972 but tragically died in her crib. Soon afterward, Floyd built a large cedar-plank house in nearby Hubley, on a stretch of lakeside land Samuel Nicholson gave to his children so they could build homes and remain close together. Paulette then gave birth to Julie, Anthony and Patricia.

By this time, Floyd had grown sick of working for someone else. So he started a pipe inspection business using modified security cameras and old postal trucks. A dedicated father, he chose to run the business out of the house, where he’d thoughtfully puff his pipe while reading charts spread out on a gigantic snooker table. Almost every penny Floyd made was invested back into the family. He took them on trips to places like Disneyland and Europe, and, being a lifelong car buff, made sure the kids always had a working vehicle. He also put them through university, all the while maintaining his easygoing sense of humour and a boundless energy that hardly ever saw him rest while he was awake. “He couldn’t sit still,” says Paulette. “He was always tinkering.”

When he wasn’t golfing, fixing one of the family’s cars, or just casting a line to catch fish for dinner, Floyd even managed to build and fly his model planes. “He’d meticulously make these planes—he had dozens of them,” says Anthony. But “they never lasted very long. You’d hear these engines fire up, and then you’d hear a ‘whack!’ when he smashed it into a tree.”

In the late ’90s, Floyd shut down his pipe inspection business and went into metal sales, opening a shop in Halifax. For the first time in decades he had to drive to work, so he lost a lot of the leisure time he had once enjoyed. This year, with the kids moved out, he decided to shrink the operation. He was restoring a hardtop ’74 MGB with Anthony, and decided to get back into fishing, which he’d missed because of his busy schedule. “The man was 71 years old—he wanted to enjoy something more relaxing,” says Paulette.

Floyd’s youngest brother Garry refreshed him on the best spots around their lake, and the two were planning to go out after supper on June 7. Although Garry decided not to go, Floyd characteristically headed out anyway. Paulette woke up at four in the morning and noticed Floyd hadn’t returned. She called Garry and the police, who immediately started searching. They found the overturned boat, with Floyd’s body nearby. He was 71.