Bill "Willie" Nicholson

May 8, 1954 ~ January 4, 2024 (age 69) 69 Years Old

Bill Nicholson Obituary

On January 4, 2024, after seven years of dealing with, and learning from, cancer, Bill Nicholson died at his home surrounded by people he loved.

On May 8, 1954, Richard William “Bill” was born to Jack and Elna Nicholson at Tacoma General Hospital and was raised in the north end of Tacoma near Point Defiance Park. He lived out his life working on the Tide Flats and living in the Puget sound area. 

He attended Wilson High School where his abilities at wrestling allowed him to participate in both state and national championship contests.  These skills along with his academic abilities also won him a scholarship at University of Oregon where he studied engineering.

After college Bill returned to Tacoma to work with his father at Nicholson Engineering on Tacoma’s Tide Flats. After his father’s death in 1994, Bill continued to own and operate Nicholson Engineering until his death. Bill had the world’s coolest “man cave:” thousands of square feet of floor space with every imaginable machine needed to make something out of raw material. His shop was his sanctuary—the place he would go to be, to think, to process all the things life threw at him.

If you have driven west bound I90, visited the Boeing Museum of Flight, crossed the Narrows, Hood Canal, or 520 bridges or a myriad of other things, you have benefited from Bill’s work. His specialty was threading & construction aids, yet had a passion for  solving people’s problems—figuring out how to make something work & redesign to accomplish the unaccomplishable. Bill loved to make magic: he was known as the wizard.  It was all so easy for him.  Along the way he met and mentored dozens of people from all walks of life, yet he had a special place in his heart for young engineers who were willing to learn how to use a new lens to look again at what they thought they knew.

While Bill was working in Alaska in 1981 (Nicholson Engineering had the mechanical responsibility on the cable laying barge in the cook inlet) Bill met Deborah who later became his wife & the love of his life.   Bill and Deborah enjoyed a 42-year relationship where they loved each other as partners and best friends. They traveled together, played together, built family, friendship & business networks, and continued to grow into ever deeper love. 

Bill is survived by his wife Deborah, her parents Renae & Tom, Cliff & Patricia, his sister Sue, his brother David, nephews and nieces Heather, Matt, Elizabeth, Jacqueline, John, Jennifer, Steven & their spouses & children & many cousins. He loved them all and was considered a favorite by many. He also left behind many, many dear friends.

Memorial Service/ Celebration of Life of Bill Nicholson
February 4th 2pm followed by desserts/coffee and time to gather & share stories.
Lakewood Presbyterian Church
8601 104TH ST. SW, LAKEWOOD, WA 98498 

The family requests, in lieu of flowers, that memorial gifts be designated to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center for Dr. Andrew Hsieh’s Research fund. Memorials can be made online at or mailed to Fred Hutch, 1100 Fairview Ave N, Mail Stop J5-200 Seattle, WA 98109. Please make sure to include Bill Nicholson’s name when making the donation.” 


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Celebration of Life
February 4, 2024

2:00 PM
Lakewood Presbyterian Church
8601 104th St SW
Lakewood, WA 98498


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