Edward Van Cleve Nicol

Edward Van Cleve Nicol (February 13, 2015)

Edward V.C. Nicol, a retired Social Security Administration public affairs representative who earned the name of "Mr. Meals on Wheels" for his more than three decades of volunteer work, died Jan. 13 of pneumonia at the Presbyterian Home of Maryland in Towson.

The longtime Rodgers Forge resident was 96.

The son of Presbyterian missionaries, Edward Van Cleve Nicol was born in Minneapolis while his parents were on furlough from their mission work in Beirut.

In 1918, Mr. Nicol and his family returned to Beirut, where he graduated from the American Community School in 1934. He returned to the United States for college, earning a bachelor's degree in 1938 from Oberlin College.

During the late 1930s, he began working for the SSA as a field representative in Youngstown, Ohio.

"One of his jobs was trying to convince people that their Social Security number would not be used for identification purposes, and we all know what happened with that," said his daughter, Susan N. Saunders of Govans.

While working in Youngstown, Mr. Nicol met Mary Chuey on a blind date. They married in 1941.

Mr. Nicol joined the Army Air Forces in 1942, and because he was fluent in French from his days living in Beirut, he served as an interpreter at military bases in Senegal and Morocco. In 1944, he was discharged and returned to the SSA.

He remained in Youngstown until being transferred to the regional office in Cleveland. In 1951, he was transferred to headquarters, which in those days was located in the Candler Building in downtown Baltimore. He later moved to Woodlawn when the agency relocated there in the early 1960s.

Mr. Nicol worked in public affairs and traveled the country teaching public speaking to SSA field representatives.

"Their job was to explain the Social Security program to people of varying educational and language abilities, especially migrant workers," said his daughter. "He also taught public speaking and had a lifelong love of clarity and simplicity in speaking and writing."

After retiring from the SSA in 1971, Mr. Nicol went to work two years later as a Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland volunteer.

In addition to delivering meals, he staffed five routes and served on the organization's board of directors.

Faye H. Carey, deputy executive director of development and communications for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, is a longtime friend and colleague.

"He was a wonderful guy with an interesting background. I've been here 25 years, and he was already here when I first came on board. The first thing I was told I had to do was meet Ed Nicol," said Ms. Carey.

"Ed was very talkative and caring, and liked visiting the clients by himself. He just didn't drop off the food and move on, he'd like to spend time with them," said Ms. Carey. "It is a value of the work. You get to know people and develop relationships, and this is what he did."

She added: "Some of the clients live alone, and sometimes the only person they see is from Meals on Wheels."

Ms. Carey said the food is prepared at the organization's Highlandtown kitchen and then delivered to distribution points where volunteers pick it up and deliver it to clients.

Mr. Nicol worked out of the Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Bolton Hill, she said.

"He worked five days a week and was out in all kinds of weather," said Ms. Carey. "He took care of about 15 clients. As he got older, his family began to worry about his driving. We were out one day, and he asked me, 'How's my driving?' and I said it was better than the young people I ride with."