He was a gentleman who cherished his family and dedicated his life to serving others. He was born December 31, 1937, in Seymour, Ind., to Oris and Mary Evelyn Nicely Walp. He grew up in North Vernon, Ind., and due to WWII, was adopted by his grandmother, Zula Eaton Nicely.
Dr. Nicely is survived by his beloved wife, Sonya Jones Nicely, of 59 years; two children, James Eric (Karen Schauer) Nicely, and Kathleen “Katie” Clare Nicely; and two grandchildren, Victoria Britt and Spencer Evan. Family times spent together were treasured by him, as well as their daily phone calls, texts, and e-mails in later life.
Dr. Nicely was a graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington, where he earned the B.S. and M.S. degrees, which were followed by the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in Speech and Language Pathology. He was a speech and hearing therapist in the South Bend, Ind. public schools, an instructor at Saint Mary’s College, Director of the Speech and Hearing Clinic at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and an Associate Professor at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston.
He came to Radford University in 1979, as chair of the new Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. He oversaw the national accreditation of their graduate programs, and the building of two campus buildings to house the academic and clinical portions of both curricula. During his tenure, he served as the Acting Dean of the Graduate College and for five years as the Interim Dean of the Waldron College of Nursing and Health Services. In 2001, he was awarded the Radford University Foundation Award for Service to the University and attained Professor Emeritus status in 2002.
In other professional activities, Dr. Nicely served as President of the Indiana Speech and Hearing Association, and President of the Speech and Hearing Association of Virginia where he was named a Fellow. He was a founding member of the Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia and served on its Board of Directors. He was an academic site visitor for the American Speech and Hearing Association. Following his retirement, he was an advisory board member for the Communication Disorders Program at Longwood University.
Wherever he lived, Dr. Nicely was involved in community life. During the college summers, he was a music instructor at a state school for the intellectually disabled and acted in a summer theater. He was president of his college housing unit, chauffeured for the Wesley Foundation, and directed the project to provide activities on weekends for children living in the Exchange House (a residential facility for children who had severe speech and hearing problems.), and his senior year, co-chaired the Metropolitan Opera After-Opera Antics event during their annual visit to IU. In South Bend, he was involved with founding a new church, Clay United Methodist, and was instrumental in arranging for the congregation to meet on Sundays in the Engineering Building on the Notre Dame Campus until the church was completed. In Radford his community involvement included offices in the Radford Noon Rotary Club and the Radford Elf Shelf Board.
He sang in the Grove United Methodist Church choir for over 30 years and was the chair of the church’s trustees. He loved music and played woodwind instruments in different ensembles including the I.U. Marching One Hundred. Spending time with his family attending concerts, the theater and musical performances and trips to the beach were among his favorite pastimes. Dr. Nicely enjoyed helping those less fortunate and rewarding people’s accomplishments. He was a peaceful, caring person who was instrumental in helping his profession grow to provide services to the residents of Southwest Virginia and far beyond,
A celebration of his life will be held at Grove United Methodist Church, 1020 Tyler Avenue, in Radford, on Saturday, June 17 at 2 p.m., with the Reverend Dr. Jan Nicholson Angle presiding. A visitation reception in the fellowship hall will follow. Private interment will be at Earlham Cemetery in Richmond, Ind. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the James E. Nicely Scholarship for Graduate Studies in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Radford University Foundation, P.O. Box 6893, Radford, Virginia 24142.
The Nicely family is in the care of Mullins Funeral Home & Crematory in Radford.