Valerie Jo Nicholls


Valerie Jo Nicholls, born Nov. 6, 1946, in Kemmerer, sadly left the many who loved her on Jan. 10, 2021, in Seattle, Washington.

Graveside service will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, at the South Lincoln Cemetery in Kemmerer, with a reception at Grumpy’s on the Triangle. A celebration of life took place in Seattle.

Winner of Seattle Opera’s Cecilia Schultz Audition, Valerie’s life passion was opera. Most of her energy, money, and focus during her 20s and 30s went to studying, performing, seeking opportunities to perform opera, including in Europe. Well known among professional musicians in Seattle, her many achievements include a solo performance at the historic Capital Theater.

Valerie possessed many talents and interests and keen intelligence. Growing up in southwest Wyoming, she was a tomboy, prankster, fisher, hiker, naturalist, artist, singer and saxophonist; a lover of swimming, horses, libraries, literature, music, art, history, art history, French and much more.

She’s a member of the Kemmerer High School Class of 1965; she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and French, was Suma Cum Laude in 1969 at Seattle University where she completed her master’s degree.   

Opera refused to leave her, and life centered on music, especially opera. A vocalist, soloist and choral director in Seattle churches, she added teaching at a business college and other pursuits.

With these, Valerie supported herself and her intense and dedicated study of opera. She studied with prominent Seattle vocal coach, the late Suzanne Szekely and sang in quartets, madrigal groups, choirs, etc.

She loved cooking, writing, live performances, fine food and drink, travel, movies, and time with family and friends. Valerie also cared deeply about the prevention of cruelty to animals, women’s issues, guaranteed income and health care for all.

Besides the U.S. and Canada, Valerie traveled to Europe three times. In 1974, she was a member of the “One Church, One Faith, One Lord” Ecumenical Seattle Choir Performance Tour in Scotland and Ireland (including war-torn Belfast). Valerie twice more toured Europe — alone, and on a shoestring, hitchhiking her way (shhh, don’t tell Caroline and Garth).

Another opera friend expressed deep admiration for Valerie’s courage and fortitude to take on the second grueling trip for the purpose of auditioning at as many opera houses as possible. 

Valerie lived her entire adult life in the Seattle area and loved being near the ocean and Puget Sound, as well as city cultural opportunities. Valerie greatly valued her many summers in Kemmerer visiting family, old friends, the library, and fishing with Dad.

Fifteen of her final 20 years were plagued by severe chronic back pain. Eighteen months in hospitals and nursing homes started with very long complex back surgery, then blood clot, brain bleed, appendectomy due to a growth and two complex nine-hour hip replacements.

She persevered, enduring the multiple series of physical therapy and, amazingly, walked and drove again. Valerie was enjoying the life without back pain she had dearly won — walking, driving and having fun — until COVID made her isolate in her apartment. Friends and the senior center stayed connected. But a heart attack prevented Val enjoying more freedom with vaccines. 

“Consummate Professional,” “Bohemian,” “Wild Woman Spirit,” “Determined Will and Huge Courage,” is how those closest describe this rare, multifaceted woman.

Valerie leaves many memories and is missed by her sister, Toni RaNae Nicholls (Phil Molloy) Trail of B.C., Canada; nephews, Alex Trevor Jacobs-Nicholls of Wenatchee, Washington, and Eric Damon Jacobs-Nicholls of Bend, Oregon; brother, Garth Jones Nicholls (Jeannie Spring) of Colorado Springs, Colorado; bonus sister, Jeannine Bramstedt; nephews, John Bramstedt (Destiny) and his children of Cosmopolis, Washington; and Michael Bramstedt (Satomi) of Pasadena, Maryland; Larry Nicholls of Mesquite, Nevada, and Logan, Utah; aunt, Lillian Juvan of Kemmerer; uncle, Anton C. Munari (Winona) of Laramie; and numerous cousins.

A few of Valerie’s Seattle “family” include: Stacy Campbell, Robert Schilperoort, and James Hay — awesome friends to Valerie who rescued our family with Valerie’s affairs during the COVID no-travel time; Jim Bolm, lifelong friend who taught Valerie to drive in her 30s; friend and former colleague in opera previews, Gloria Philip of Missoula, Montana; all around good friend, Fran Tombs; confidante and kindred spirit, Myron Myers, of DeKalb, Illinois. 

Valerie is predeceased by parents, Garth and Caroline (Munari) Nicholls; grandparents, Henry and Mary Ellen (Jones) Nicholls and Charles (Carlo) and Theresa (Dreu) Munari; William Bramstedt; Dale Tombs; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and many “friends like family” (most conductors and musicians, but not all) who brought joy to Val’s life and she to theirs.

An expanded obituary with pictures and more detailed information about Valerie’s Vocal career by colleague Gloria Philip is available at https://www.elementalnw.com/obituaries/valerie-jo-nicholls/161/

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