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Chief's death stuns Delta's police force

DELTA - He put his life on the line every day as a police officer. But it was a hospital bed after a routine operation where Delta Police Chief Daniel Nichols died.

Chief Nichols died suddenly early yesterday from complications that arose after a routine surgical procedure. The longtime Delta officer was being treated at St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee for a gall bladder condition. He was 52.

“I think my dad was a very, very honorable man, and he was ever so proud of what he did and the job that he performed,” his son Jasen, 21, said. “But most of all he was proud of my mom and me, and he loved us to no end - still does.”

Delta, a village of about 3,000 residents in eastern Fulton County, has seven full-time officers, including the chief.

Chief Nichols joined the department in December, 1978, as a patrolman. He was promoted to chief when former Chief Robert Taylor retired about four years ago.

Mr. Nichols said his father came home from the hospital Saturday after surgery the day before. He returned to the hospital that night with intense stomach pains later determined to be a perforation in his intestine, Mr. Nichols said.

He died because of kidney failure caused by toxins in his body, his son said.

News of Chief Nichols's death shocked his colleagues who expected him back in the office Friday. Most of the officers were able to visit the chief the night before he died.

“He didn't expect to be out of touch with us for more than a day or so,” said Lt. Garry Chamberlin, who was appointed acting chief yesterday morning and worked with Chief Nichols for 22 years. “For us, we're are a police department but we're not like a big-city department where there are hundreds of officers. This is like losing a personal part of each one of us.”

Lieutenant Chamberlin said the department will maintain a status quo, an easy feat because Chief Nichols was very organized.

But the loss to the department and the community will be evident every day.

“He was very a straight-forward, fair, honest individual,” he said. “We will continue serving the community while we work to get back on our feet.”

Lieutenant Chamberlin added that the officers have responded well but that help in dealing with the loss will be made available to any member of the department.

Chief Nichols grew up in Toledo and worked many years at a trucking company. It was the injustices that he saw during his life that compelled him to join the police academy, his son said.

After a few years working as an auxiliary officer, Chief Nichols joined the Delta Police Department and moved his wife, Linda, into the small community.

There he made his home with his wife of 26 years and his son.

Jasen Nichols, now a senior at the University of Rio Grande in southeast Ohio, said he remembers that growing up the son of a cop wasn't always easy.

There were times he had to worry and others he'd have to deal with the subjects of his dad's arrests.

“I distinctly remember my first day as a freshman in high school because I had a broken arm and three seniors wanted to beat me up because my dad had arrested them,” he said. “But I know whatever my dad did, he did it for the right reasons, and I'm very proud of him. Those people were upset with me because my dad did his job.”

Mayor Donald Gerdes said Chief Nichols has been an active and visible member of the small community for the past two decades. Not only involved in law enforcement, the chief made time for community activities.

He was also active in the Fort Industry-Toledo Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons and the National Associations of Police Chiefs.

Mayor Gerdes met Chief Nichols nearly two decades ago when their sons came together at Cub Scout Troop 72.

“He was very community oriented, and he was proud of his family and his department,” he said. “It's hard to talk about it; it's such a great loss.”

Mayor Gerdes added that the chief was nearing his retirement eligibility age.

“Hopefully, he wouldn't have left, but he could have,” he added.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Edgar-Grisier Funeral Home, 219 South Fulton St., Wauseon, where funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday.

In addition to his wife and son, Chief Nichols is survived by his mother and stepfather, Margaret and Ralph Shirkey; sister, Carol Goodridge; stepson, Carl; stepdaughter, Darlene, and stepsisters, Debbie and Teresa.

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