Obituary: Larry Lee Nichols

November 27, 1943 - January 5, 2024
Larry Lee Nichols
November 27, 1943 - January 5, 2024
Posted at 10:22 AM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 15:53:48-05

Larry Lee Nichols, 80, passed away at home in Great Falls, Montana on January 5, 2024. Larry was born on November 27, 1943, in Kalispell, Montana. He grew up mostly in Great Falls and spent summers on the Darlington Ranch in Big Sandy and the Chartier Homestead in the Coulee where he drove a grain truck and helped on the farm. Larry attended Great Falls High, College of Great Falls, and MSU Northern. He also served in the Air National Guard.

Larry lived his life on his own terms, a bit on the edge. Underage driving, drinking, and getting into any kind of trouble he could conjure up. Larry was shot and paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 21 when a night of cruising Central Avenue turned into a pissing contest. After spending months in a coma and having multiple surgeries and being wheelchair bound, Larry miraculously learned to walk again, and he never looked back.

Larry married the love of his life, Michelle Palagi, on September 2, 1969. They welcomed their first of four children, Heather, on June 30, 1970, followed by Hilary in 1974, Jason in 1979, and Jesse in 1984. Larry and Shelley later divorced. Larry maintained a special place in his heart for Shelley and wanted her to be cared for. He tried to love her from a distance in his own misguided way. It took a few years for all of us to settle into a new normal, but Larry and Shelley did their best to co-parent their grandchildren and show up for us as a family until the end. We all spent his last Christmas together.

He had an entrepreneurial spirit and owned and operated a few businesses over the years including Nichols Used Cars, Bumper to Bumper, and Nichols Enterprise. He was a master mechanic, always working on several projects, right up until the end. He also ran heavy equipment and was a master of all trades. Larry spent time working on the Alaska Pipeline and moved his family to Delta Junction in the mid 70’s, where we lived with our “Alaska” cousins in a tiny trailer and all damn near froze to death. We also followed him back to Alaska in the mid 80’s, and lived on the Kenai Peninsula while he worked in the oil fields. Larry spent time living in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.

After retiring, he moved back home to Great Falls in the early 2000’s. Larry’s life was full of adventures. He was a member of motorcycle clubs, snowmobile clubs, RCA clubs, drag racing clubs, and sailing clubs. He loved ripping up and down the Missouri river in his speed boat, and sailing on the Flathead, Cook Inlet, and the Columbia River in his sailboat called “Contagious.” He loved the annual “Augusta Rodeos,” camping, fireside chats, spending time with his family and friends, snowbirding in Arizona, building and racing cars, riding 4 wheelers, motorcycles, and side by sides.

He is survived by his Chartier, Nichols, Darlington, and Palagi families; children, Heather, Hilary, Jason (Lindsey), and Jesse; grandchildren, Luc, Sophie, Grayson, Jaycee, Seeley, Kira, and Lillian; his ex-wife, Shelley Palagi Smith; dear cousin, Sue Kerkis; and numerous cousins, aunts, uncles and friends that have been like family including, Jim and Fran Combs and family; Bob and Marilyn Nelson and family; Alvin and Patty Hodson and family; Dawnetta Barney and family, and his Oregon and Arizona friends.

To read the complete obituary and share condolences, click here to visit the O'Connor Funeral Home website.