Ramona West Nichols, born in Warne, North Carolina on December 3, 1936,
passed away on January 23, 2023, at the age of 86 at her home in Hiawassee,
Georgia after a battle with cancer.
Ramona was born to Wayne Grade West and Mildred Barnard West and traveled
the world as an “Army brat.” She grew up with her two siblings, older brother
Ronald Wayne West and younger sister Wanda West Hoffmann, and they played
and fought and laughed their way to being best friends. She learned the value of
hard work and family from her parents, particularly her mother – strong women
raise strong women. She also developed her outgoing personality and hilarious
sense of humor as a defense mechanism of always being “the new kid” at school
with an Army transfer every two years.
Ramona was a diligent student who excelled in academics and was voted Best All
Around her senior year in high school – an apt description of her entire life. After
graduating from Hayesville High School in 1954, she attended Young Harris
College and earned an Associates of Arts degree in 1956. She then attended North
Georgia College with her sister, Wanda, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree
in 1958. She continued her education after beginning a teaching career that lasted
30 years and earned a Master of Arts in Education degree from Western Carolina
in 1968. She held a master’s degree when the State of Georgia allowed teachers to
teach merely with an associates degree.
Lifelong learning and education were central to her core being, and she instilled
this same value in her children and grandchildren. With financial and emotional
support, as well as subtle threats, Ramona encouraged all her children and
grandchildren to earn college degrees.
She began her teaching career in 1958 in Cobb County, Georgia, transferring to
Towns County, Georgia upon her marriage, and completed the majority of her
career in Fannin County, Georgia. She shaped the lives of her students, and she
loved them as well. She nurtured both the mind and the heart, and they loved her
for it. She was selected as Teacher of the Year for Fannin County in 1988, the
same year she retired, which speaks to her ability to remain an excellent teacher to
the very last day of her career.
In March,1961she married Ralph James Nichols, the love of her life. As Joseph
Campbell said, “Love is a friendship set to music,” and they danced to that music
throughout their 61-year marriage.
As Sophocles stated, “Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life,” and so
Ramona’s children were to her. Rhea Nichols Galati was born in 1962, and Ralph
Mitchell Nichols was born in 1965. The greatest heartbreak of her life occurred
when Ralph Mitchell died of unknown causes in 1967. The anchor that brought
Ramona back to life was the birth of her second son, Ryan James Nichols in 1970.
We loved our mother, but we did not know just how much until she was gone.
In addition to raising and loving her family, Ramona was a whirlwind of interests
and activities. She was an artist who painted incredible landscapes in oils and
recreated her childhood world on an applique quilt. She wove intricate baskets and
family genealogies. She tracked down ancestors that fought in the American
Revolution and the Civil War and landed rainbow trout that swam in the
Cumberland River in Kentucky. She recorded deeds for the Clerk of Superior
Court and minutes for the Alpha Delta Kappa Educators Honorary Society.
Countless joyous hours were spent watching baseball – walking the centerfield
fence line while Ryan played baseball from little league to semipro – she could not
stand to hear what other fans said about the players and cheering on her Atlanta
Braves. And she read, insatiably.
Dolly Parton captured Ramona’s essence with her observation, “If your actions
create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and
become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” Ramona’s leadership shined her
She is survived by her husband, Ralph, their children, Rhea and her husband,
David Galati and Ryan and his wife, Christen Nichols and her grandchildren,
Rachel Beck and her husband, Chris Beck, Cameron Cox, Chloe Nichols, Rowan
Nichols, and a great-grandson, Logan Beck. The pallbearers are Chris Beck,
Brandon Barrett, Kenny Barrett, Andrew McClure, Matthew McClure, and Parker
Nichols. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be make in Ramona’s
honor to the American Cancer Society.
Visitation: Friday, January 27, 2023 11:00-1:00 at Banister-Cooper Funeral Home
Funeral Service: Friday, January 27, 2023 at Mt. Pisgah at 2:00pm
Friday, January 27, 2023
11:00am - 1:00pm (Eastern time)
Banister-Cooper Funeral Home