Alice Riffer Nickerson

ST. LOUIS PARK – Alice Riffer Nickerson died peacefully on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, surrounded by her children at her home in St. Louis Park, Minn., culminating 96 years of life with dignity and grace. She lived an active life in service to others, finding joy and fulfillment in caring for her family and as a volunteer nurse, educator, and medical missionary around the world. Memorial services are planned at 11 a.m. Friday, March 14, 2014, at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, 3611 North Berens Road NW in Prior Lake. Visitation will be one hour prior to services on March 14, 2014, at the church.

She was born on Jan. 30, 1918, in Leechburg, Pa., to David Homer and Lucy Riffer. After graduating from high school, she attended Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., majoring in chemistry intending to teach. Discouraged by a professor who told her she was too short to command authority in the classroom, she was recruited to enroll in a new and innovative Master’s of Science in Nursing program at (Case) Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. There she met her future husband, Neil Nickerson, then a medical student. They married in 1942 in Greenville, finished their respective degrees, began a family and were assigned by the U.S. Army to Gorgas Hospital, Panama, at the conclusion of WW II. After completion of Neil’s medical training, the family moved to Minnesota, first Thief River Falls, then settling in Fairmont in 1953, which became their home for more than 55 years. There her life revolved around raising five children, church activities, blood bank volunteering, gardening, and Fairmont Community Hospital Auxiliary work. A consummate cook and baker, she raised her children on homemade bread and pies she cut into seven pieces of perfectly equal size no simple task. A short-term mission assignment to Liberia in 1970 became the first of many years of missionary service she and Neil provided. Alice’s unique skills were utilized repeatedly: Interim Director of the Dept. of Nursing, and also a clinical and classroom educator at Cuttington College, Liberia; providing direct nursing care in a Thai refugee camp; an untiring advocate for public health education in Papua New Guinea and Kenya. She was an inspiring role model for the many nurses she encountered. In her 60s Alice discovered a passion for quilting, eventually making quilts for all of her children and grandchildren. Along with Anna Circle of Grace Lutheran church, she helped make thousands of quilts over the years that were sent to Lutheran World Relief for distribution; and helped hand quilt many that were donated to the Hospital Auxiliary benefits.

She will be missed dearly and is survived by her children, Ruth (Keith) Edge of Powell, Wyo., Scott (Anne) Nickerson of Big Horn, Wyo., Newton (Crystal) Nickerson of Ely, Minn., Hallie (Steve) Richards of Edina, Minn., Hanna Barker of St Louis Park, Minn., and Nega (Hana) Massebo (Ethiopian son) of San Diego, Calif.; grandchildren, Romano (Angela) Nickerson, Luca Nickerson, Jessica Barker, Laura (Doug) Birkmaier, Chad Nickerson, Nadia (Dave) Raczek, David (Erin) Nickerson, Gregory Nickerson, Jennifer (Corey) Purkat, Lindsay (Mike) Bausman, Philip (Laura) Nickerson, Anne Richards, and Malia Woldemariam; great-grandchildren, Lily Johnson, Rachel and David Birkmaier, Renzo Nickerson, and Carlin Nickerson.

Arrangements by Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Global Health Ministries of Fridley – area of greatest need; Grace Lutheran Church of Fairmont – mission committee; Haiti Nursing Foundation; or Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church of Prior Lake – Phebe Hospital.