Lucille Nichols part of Home Place for 50 yearsBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
The Home Place has been a part of the Northside community since 1946, but Lucille Nichols is who really makes it feel like home.
For the past 50 years, Lucille has been working as assistant administrator and administrator at the Home Place.
The Home Place is an independent living facility in Madison, located off Old Canton Road near Madison-Ridgeland Academy and the Bruce Campbell Airfield.
Originally founded in the early 1900s in Raymond, the Home Place relocated to its current location in Madison in 1946.
Lucille is originally from Poplar Bluff. She attended Bluff High School, where she graduated in 1942. She then attended Sanders College, where she was graduated in 1946 with a degree in business.
After graduating, Lucille’s first job involved providing income tax services in Poplar Bluff. She then met her husband, Thomas Nichols, who was from Paris, Tenn.
The couple moved to Paris in 1951 and were married in 1956. In 1962, still residing in Paris, Lucille decided to start her own tax service office, where she worked until 1968, when she and Thomas moved to Durant.
“My husband set up a registered angus (herd) for our friends in Jackson, Tenn.,” Lucille said. “They bought this big estate, didn’t know what to do with it. So, he got their business going, got their herd set, put them in business.”
In December of 1968, Lucille and Thomas drove to Jackson, Miss., to visit friends. While in town, the couple was asked to help at the Home Place as interim administrator and assistant administrator until a permanent employee was found.
“We were getting ready to go back to Tennessee for tax year, and we came to Jackson to visit friends of ours, the Travis family. It just so happened that Mrs. Travis, at that time, was the chairman of the board of the Home Place. Their administrator had a heart attack, and they were without help there…”
Lucille and Thomas were both asked to help for three months.
“We had no concept of this type of business at all. It was really, in a way, it was meant to be. I hope that it was. But, we said we would stay three months while they could look for somebody (else). In the meantime, it did not take us long to realize it was going to be longer than three months to get it in shape.”
Lucille and Thomas first began organizing the facility and looking into means of revenue for the home, which is a 501c3 organization.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘Thomas, what have we gotten ourselves into?’ Actually, (the residents) were all as sweet as they could be and so grateful for the care.”
At the time, the facility did not even have a proper infirmary with a medical nurse or doctor, so Lucille had to help in that regard as well.
“We had a little infirmary set up, and there was actually no medical help. I (got) one licensed practical nurse, and we ran the infirmary until we were able to scout around.”
At the end of their three months, Thomas noticed a man on the sidewalk and went out to help him.
“One day, one of the little men had a stroke on the sidewalk, and my husband went out to help him up, ‘The look in his eyes was relief. I realized if we hadn’t been here, who would do it for him?’ ”
After that, Thomas and Lucille decided to stay at the Home Place.
Soon after, the home passed the state licensing board, and Lucille and Thomas even took health classes at Ole Miss to be better informed about those in their care.
They even had a house built on the grounds, making them always accessible.
“It is a 24-7 job, pretty much,” Lucille said. “My house is next door, a house they built for us, because we never left the grounds… We got some income established through the Welfare Department for those people who had no income. We made it. It was tough.”
Lucille was instrumental in helping provide citizens with Medicaid in the state of Mississippi. She helped former Sen. Hayden Campbell write the state’s first Medicaid bill.
“He said, ‘Lucille, I have no concept of what it’s all about.’ So, we kind of went over basic needs, and we helped him put the idea together.”
Thomas died in 1992, at which point Lucille became the administrator for the Home Place.
“They just assumed I would stay, and I did… We worked together — whatever we needed, wherever we were needed.”
Even though she no longer gets to work alongside her husband and after 50 full years, Lucille still enjoys coming to work each day.
“I just had a lot of interesting roles and have enjoyed every minute of it. I still enjoy coming to work.”
For Lucille, the best part is being with adults. An only child, she always felt a greater connection with them. Her goal every day is to make the residents feel at home.
“I love the people. I love older people. I was an only child and not raised with children, mostly adults around. So, I just really have a great love for older people. They have taught me so much, really. The association I have with these people every day is just wonderful. But, what we hoped to establish was a homelike feeling and a homelike place for them to come. That’s what we strive to do every day.”
Lucille said she feels like the home place does a pretty good job of that, with staff and residents always mingling.
“We ask them when they come in what they like to be called, and every one of them likes to be called by their first name. It’s like a little comradeship they form. We do have, of course, a lot of activities, which they can go to or not. We have an exercise class. I just keep things on keel and try to take care of the finances.”
Lucille’s diligence with the facility’s finances is incredibly important, as the home never has the same budget every year.
“We would like to have a budget, but we never know how much income we’ll have or never know how much our donations will be. So, I’ve always just played very carefully… We do everything we can ourselves.”
That’s part of the challenging aspect of administering the Home Place for Lucille — “The continuing ability to provide this service.”
Since she began working at the Home Place, Lucille has won multiple awards for her hard work.
In 1972, she was named Woman of the Year for Madison County, an award presented by senators John Stennis and James Eastland.
In 2001, she received the Peggy Wilks Award from the Madison the City Chamber of Commerce.
Just two years later in 2003, Lucille was awarded for her work by the Mississippi Health Care Association.
In 2014, the state legislature awarded Lucille for community service.
And in April, Madison the city’s Chamber of Commerce awarded Lucille with the Lifetime Achievement Award, thanking her for all the great work she’s done at the Home Place for the last 50 years.
When she can find the time, Lucille enjoys reading whatever she can get her hands on.
Lucille has three daughters: Sherry, Ann and Marcia, who works as Lucille’s assistant. She also has three grandsons and two great grandchildren.