~~Michael Nicolais passed away peacefully this morning, November 7, after a short battle with cancer. He was 91 years old. As recently as six months ago, he was still indulging in his daily activities, walking a mile and a half to his health club, doing a modest work-out, having breakfast with friends and then hopping on the subway to go the office where he remained an active financial manager. He loved the financial markets and he loved New York City, where he was born and spent a large part of his life.
He loved his family even more however. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margaret Christie Nicolais, daughters Lisa Nicolais Miller and her husband Robert, Joan Ellen Nicolais and her husband Anthony Cicatiello, Susan Nicolais Weaver and her husband Robert, and by his son, Michael Robert Nicolais and his wife Jane. He is also survived by his younger brother, Mario A. Nicolais and his wife Rosemarie and by his sister-in-law, Susan Nicolais. Mike had ten grandchildren, Christopher, Hilary, Alastair, Stephen, Olivia, Robert, Matthew, two Michaels and Charles. He also had a multitude of grand nephews and nieces who he considered as his own grandchildren and loved them as such. His father, Antonio, and his mother Luigina Toglia, were both immigrants from Calitri, Italy, and watched in wonder as their three sons achieved the American Dream. Mike is pre-deceased by his older brother Gaetano.
Mike was born in Staten Island, New York, and spent his entire youth there. He attended Curtis High School and was enshrined in that school’s Hall of Fame for his long list of career and life accomplishments. He served for 33 months in the U.S Army Infantry during World War II and returned home before he turned 21 years old. He fought on the German front line including in The Battle of the Bulge and was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Upon returning from serving his country, he attended Wagner College earning a BS degree in accounting, magna cum laude in three years. Shortly after graduating, he joined The Clark Estates, a renowned family office where he worked for the next 42 years, the last 23 years as its President. He was an excellent value investor who also, from time to time, would dip his toe into the world of venture capital. He was well known on Wall Street and served on many public and private company boards of directors.
During this time, and as part of his relationship with the Clark family, he served for many years as a Director of the Baseball Hall of Fame and of the Fenimore House, a museum dedicated to James Fenimore Cooper, the great American writer. Upon “retiring” from The Clark Estates at the age of 65, he immediately launched his second career as a money manager including working with and for Phil Carret, one of the legendary investors in Wall Street history and at Wall Street Access, in partnership with his beloved Linda and Sonia, literally up until his death.
Two of the great loves of his life were the town and greater community of Cooperstown, NY, and his alma mater, Wagner College. Due to the time and financial resources he and Margaret devoted to Wagner, they were each awarded honorary doctorate degrees. Both the President’s house at Wagner and the Business School there are named for Mike and Margaret, Nicolais House and The Nicolais School of Business respectively.
Mike and Margaret moved to Chatham, New Jersey to raise their children. They also had a lake home in Green Pond, New Jersey and loved both communities very much. Mike was a long time member of Baltusrol Golf Club and was recognized as the oldest volunteer this summer during the PGA Championship at his club. As a true New Yorker, however, shortly after becoming empty nesters, they moved back to New York City to the upper east side where they have lived ever since. Mike loved to walk the city streets and ride the buses and subways. As the son of immigrants, he never forgot where he came from and treated all human beings he encountered as equals, from public company CEO’s to the doormen in his building to the tourist on the street looking for directions in the big city. His most remarkable quality was his love of people and his acceptance of all. He changed with the times and had a very open mind about different lifestyles. He was inquisitive and interested in others. He and Margaret were deeply in love and a great example of how marriages are supposed to work — lots of debate and disagreement followed by compromise and a hug. He will be missed by family and friends alike, on Wall Street and in Chatham and Cooperstown and Green Pond, but he will always be remembered as a loving and devoted husband, son, brother, father and friend and as a true gentleman.
Calling hours will be 6 to 9 pm on Friday, November 11, at the William A. Bradley & Son Funeral Home, 345 Main Street in Chatham, NJ. A memorial service will take place at Baltusrol Golf Club, 201 Shunpike Road, Springfield, NJ, at 1 PM, Saturday, November 12. For those who would like to make a contribution in Mike’s name, please direct your gift to the Scholarship Fund of the Nicolais School of Business at Wagner College located at The Office of Institutional Advancement, One Campus Road, Staten Island, New York 10301.