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Henry "Hank" Nickol

February 20, 1932 - February 27, 2020
Born in Detroit, Michigan
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Hank Nickol passed peacefully at the age of 88 on Feb 27, 2020. Hank a loving husband, father, grandfather, was also a successful automobile executive. He will be remembered for his tireless work ethic that was second only to a devotion to family. He loved to golf, ski, and sail, and, while in San Diego, did all three in one day. He and his wife Pat loved to go to the symphony, theatre, museums, and travel the world. Pat, his beloved wife, companion and friend, kept him laughing over wonderful meals and fine wines. He credited her with helping him cultivate a love of the arts and providing him with a second chance at love after the death of Marilyn, the mother of his three children.

Hank’s distinguished career included 43 years at Ford Motor Company. When he retired from Ford, he was Vice President Vehicle Operations, which included responsibility for all Ford Assembly and Stamping plants in North America. Previously he had responsibility for Ford North American engine, transmission and casting plants and their operations. Hank began his Ford career as a co-op student in 1953, and rapidly progressed through management positions in research, advance engineering, emissions compliance, powertrain engineering and then to general management. As an advance engineer he was responsible for engine and brake cooling systems and wind tunnel testing. His recommended vehicle designs significantly improved the engine and brake cooling functions so critical to Ford’s win at the 24 hour Le Mans race, made famous in the recent movie Ford v Ferrari.

Following his career at Ford, Hank served proudly on the board of directors of several companies including AFL, Meridian and Hall Capital for his counsel and his expertise.

Friends and associates remember him by the oft repeated description -- “a real gentleman.” Hank was a passionate supporter of Detroit area sport teams including the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and UDM basketball. Hank was also a patron of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Proud of his Finnish heritage (both his mother, Edith Helen Kransi, and father, Eino Jacob Nickol, were born in Finland); it is not surprising one of his favorite composers was Jean Sibelius. With Pat he often travelled to New York to visit museums and enjoyed the latest Broadway shows. These New York excursions, made early every December, included late night dinners with close friends. This joyous tradition spanned 25 consecutive years.

Ken Dabrowski said “Hank, my best friend for 45 years, is among the brightest, most capable and professional executives I have reported to in my career; I am most fortunate to have had him as a mentor.” Gurminder Bedi said “Hank was my mentor and dear friend. I learned so much from him. No one knew more about quality than Hank. He always treated everyone who worked for him with respect.”

Hank obtained a BSME from University of Detroit and an MSEME from the University of Michigan. A holder of several patents, Hank was a member of the national honorary engineering societies Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma, a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Engineering Society of Detroit, and served on the Advisory Board of the University of Detroit College of Engineering, serving as chairman from 1987 to 1995. In recognition of his many professional contributions, Hank was elected a fellow of the Engineering Society of Detroit and honored with the distinguished alumni award by the University of Detroit.

Hank was fortunate to have lived a full life with family and loved by two women, his present wife of 22 years, Patricia “Pat” (nee Hurford), and his first wife, the late Marilyn (nee Kent). Hank was the loving father of Meredith (Daniel Higgins), Geoffrey (Robert Blackford), Michele Martin, Michael Martin (Leslie Jackson), and the late Kent Nickol (Barbara Palazzolo). He was also the proud grandfather of Sailor, Jackson, Charles, Bodey and Quinn Martin and Matthew Higgins.

Hank lived life with no regrets. There will be a celebration of life his life at Holy Name Catholic Church located in Birmingham, Michigan, at a date to be determined.




Funeral Home
A.J. Desmond & Sons (Vasu, Rodgers & Connell Chapel)
32515 Woodward Ave (btwn 13-14 Mile)
Royal Oak, MI US 48073