William Jarvie Nicoson, one of Reston’s first citizens, was repeatedly and lovingly lauded as a “true renaissance man” at a memorial service Oct. 19 at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.
“It is painful to lose not just a friend, but one of the weavers of the fabric of our community,” said Charles Veatch, another of Reston’s first citizens who worked with Reston founder Robert E. Simon in the original development of the community.
Speaking to a church filled with many other of Reston’s leading residents, including Simon, a close and longtime Nicoson friend, Veatch added: “Our friend Bill had an unusual combination of talents. His head had the mind of a lawyer; his heart was that of an artist.”
The recipient of a 2002 “Best of Reston” award, Nicoson, who died July 7 at 81, made many contributions to Reston for decades prior to receiving its most prestigious honor.
A distinguished attorney who practiced law in both New York City and Paris, he came to the area in 1970 to be the first director of the New Community Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development. Also an internationally respected consultant on finance and community development, he decided to make the innovative planned community his home.
A dedicated civic activist known for his keen intellect, Nicoson, who served on the Reston Association Board of Directors, was integral to the creation and operation of many key Reston organizations. Among them was the Greater Reston Arts Center, the Reston Historic Trust — where he served as president for 10 years — and its Reston Museum, and the Planned Community Archives, housed at George Mason University.
Nicoson also was one of the founders of the Connection Newspapers, where he served as its publisher for many years and wrote a weekly column. He subsequently wrote a monthly column for the Reston Times.
In addition, he served for 20 years as the president of a unique Reston group — the exclusive, by-invitation-only Philosophers’ Club, which he integrated with its first women members.
An accomplished poet, playwright, pianist, philosopher, world traveler, and connoisseur of food and wine, Nicoson, a member of the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., and its chess team champion for several years, also was remembered by many for his exceptional and endearing talents as a husband, stepfather and friend.
“He was the most consistently elegant, gracious, and generous man. … He gave us gifts impossible to quantify,” said his stepdaughter Mary Fairbairn Morgan, who became part of the Nicoson family when he married her mother Patricia McLaughlin Nicoson, who is now the president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association.
“Bill was an inspiration not only for what he did but how he did it,” said his stepson, William Todd Fairbairn.
The Rev. Jim Papile, Nicoson’s pastor at St. Anne’s for many years, reminded those present to remember him not only for his “amazing intellect and stature” but also as “a man of great joy.”
Papile counseled, “If he had a legacy for us … it’s every day is special.”