SACO — In 1996, shortly after retiring to Maine, Bob Nichols started a volunteer job stocking shelves at a local food pantry that would lead to a passion in helping feed others.

Nichols who served for many years as the president of the Saco Food Pantry, died Tuesday at the age of 86 after coping with heart issues.

Though it was a volunteer position, Nichols took his job as president seriously and spent many hours making sure the facility was operating smoothly, needs were met, shelves were stocked and the clients had food. He never tired of giving his time to help those who were hungry.

“He was an icon,” said John White, current food pantry president. “He was always at the pantry. Even after-hours he was there.”

Nichols was a wealth of information and experience, and a good resource for White as he transitioned into the role as president.

White said Nichols always had good ideas when it came to making improvements at the pantry, and was open to people fine tuning them to make them work.

“My mentor is gone. I’m on my own now,” said White. The need doesn’t stop, and the pantry will continue the good work its done for many years. Nichols prepared White well for the position, just as former President Bryce Milne had prepared Nichols.

The food pantry currently provides food for more than 8,000 people a year, and in total provides more than 96,000 individual meals, according to information from the pantry’s website.

Nichols made sure he had trained his volunteers well so he could shift his attention to tend to the needs of his wife Flora, who died in October after being diagnosed about six years earlier with Parkinson’s disease, and to make sure operations at the pantry ran smoothly when he was no longer able to work at the facility.

“It’s going to leave a big void at the pantry,” said Leo Menard, who helped oversee a local Rotary project to make renovations at the 67 Ocean Park Road property where the pantry and a free clothing program are located.

“He was a nice guy to work with,” said Menard. He said that not only was Nichols kind and generous with his time, but he had a very good sense of humor.

“He always had a smile on his face,” said Menard.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected]

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