A small town in west-central Minnesota is mourning the death of a popular city employee who volunteered on the local rescue squad.
Dean W. Nichols, 57, described by mourners on the City of Kerkhoven's Facebook page as a "gentle giant," will be laid to rest after a memorial service Monday at KMS High School in Kerkhoven, which is located 15 miles northwest of Willmar on the southeast side of Swift County.
According to the Kerkhoven Banner, Nichols died after suffering a medical emergency on Monday, Jan. 13. He was a city maintenance worker for 24 years in Kerkhoven while also serving as a volunteer EMT for the town's ambulance service.
The City of Kerkhoven has changed its profile picture on Facebook to a photo of Nichols (the picture at the top of the story), describing him as follows:
"City employee, EMT, the guy who always had a smirk and a wave, the man who loved his family like no other, the guy with the orange crocs who dared this picture be taken will be watching Kerkhoven from above. As we attempt to grasp the reality of your passing Dean, we promise to keep your family in our prayers and thoughts today and in the days to come."
The orange Crocs were his thing, with his obituary noting that he even wore them to his daughter's wedding dance.
"He had an infectious personality that is described as strong, helpful, encouraging and larger than life," his obituary says.
Nichols began working for the city in 1995 and would go on to be an EMS instructor at Ridgewater College in Willmar for 22 years.
Nichols passed away the same day as Howard Lake Fire Chief Daryl "Taddy" Drusch, who suffered a heart attack hours after responding to an emergency call.