NICKLEACH – Joseph A. Nickleach, age 78, of Ford City passed away peacefully at his home on August 15, 2018, surrounded by his family, after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was born May 19, 1940 in Ford City to Steve and Betty (Puskar) Nickleach and was a lifelong member of the community. He was married to his wife, Judith (Wakefield) for 56 years, after becoming friends in elementary school.
He was a member of the Ford City High School Class of 1958 and graduated from St. Vincent College in 1962. In 1966, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law, graduating second in his class. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania State Bar Association in May, 1966. His first professional job was as Legal Assistant to Judge Rabe F. Marsh in the U.S. District Court, and he also served as a Hearing Examiner for the PA Liquor Control Board. He returned to Armstrong County to set up a private practice, initially on his own and then as a partner in the firm of Nickleach and Owen.
Throughout his long career, he served as District Attorney of Armstrong County and as solicitor for various boards and organizations. He served Armstrong Fire School and Camp Cadet for many years, providing instruction on the legal aspects of fire and police work.
In 1988 he was elected Judge in the Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas, and in 1992 became President Judge. Upon his retirement in 2008, he continued as Senior Judge, serving both Armstrong and Indiana Counties until December, 2017. During his time on the bench, he presided over hundreds of criminal and civil cases and was proud that only one was ever overturned on appeal. Still, he felt his greatest professional accomplishments were when he presided over adoptions, helping to unite new families.
He was very active in the community. He coached CYO Basketball for many years for Holy Trinity Church and Ford City Catholic School. He was proud that many of the players he coached in elementary school went on to have great success at the high school and collegiate level. He was an avid golfer and could often be found at Lenape Heights Golf Course, where he was a member of the Board of Directors for many years. He was always honored to participate in community events such as Ford City’s Heritage Days opening ceremonies.
He was also a great sports fan, holding season tickets for many years to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt football, Ford City High School and later Armstrong River Hawks football. But his greatest joy came when he traveled to North Carolina to watch his grandsons play football, baseball, basketball and soccer. When he wasn’t attending sporting events, he could often be seen on his porch listening to games on the radio.
His faith was very important to him and he was an active member of Christ, Prince of Peace Catholic Parish in Ford City.
One of the most important things in his life was his family. He was extremely proud of his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He cherished family vacations at the Outer Banks, visits to his grandsons in North Carolina, hosting family gatherings at his home, and any opportunity to enjoy time with his large extended family. Whenever asked to speak publicly, he often expressed his belief that family and service to the community were the most important cornerstones of any civilization and he devoted his life to living out this belief.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters: JoAnn Nickleach of Ford City, Jean Nickleach of Springdale, Janis Boone (Timothy), and their children Jack, Charlie, and Archie of Huntersville, NC. He also had a large extended family including many in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins who were very important to him
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Susan Nickleach Cooperstein and brother-in-law Bert Cooperstein.
Donations in Joe Nickleach’s memory can be made to The Community Foundation of Armstrong County, 220 South Jefferson St., Kittanning PA 16201, where the family plans to create a memorial scholarship, to HAVIN Domestic Abuse Shelter 325 Arch Street, Kittanning PA 16201, or to the charity of one’s choice.
Visitation is scheduled at Mantini Funeral Home, 701 6th Avenue in Ford City, on Saturday, August 18 from 7-9PM and Sunday, August 19 from 2-4 and 7-9PM.
A Funeral Mass is scheduled for Monday, August 20 at 11AM at Christ Prince of Peace Church, 718 4th Avenue, Ford City.