Aurora businessman known for Snow White art on WWII bombers dies at 95
By Denise Crosby email@example.com October 9, 2012 10:24AM
Crew Chief Amos Nicholson paints the Disney character "Dopey" of one of the B-24 aircraft as part of the 343rd Bomb Squadron stationed in Kabrit, Libya and North Africa.
Visitation for Amos Everett Nicholson will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at The Daleiden Mortuary, 220 N. Lake St., Aurora. The funeral will be private.
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:16AM
I’ve had the honor of meeting — and telling the remarkable stories of — many World War II vets in my 20 years as a journalist here in the Fox Valley. But Amos Nicholson, who died Saturday at age 95, was extra special to me.
That’s because we spent so much time together this year writing the book this lifelong Aurora man wanted fervently to see published. I first learned about this goal after interviewing him for a column around the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. He’d already had a local author lined up, but the project eventually fell through, and he’d pretty much given up hope his story would be told.
“I got the perfect name for it,” he told me as we discussed the book he’d envisioned for so long; “Snow White goes to War.”
Perfect, indeed. That’s because Master Sgt. Amos “Nick” Nicholson not only rose to the level of crew chief for the hulking B-24 “Liberators” that played such an integral part in the war’s North African theater, but he also painted the iconic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs series of nose art on the 343rd Squadron of the 98th Bomb Group of the Army Air Corps.
The 98th Bomb Group, including some of the bombers that featured his Disney handiwork, took part in the famed low-level Ploesti raid over Hitler’s Romanian oil fields that historians consider a turning point in the war.
Amos, who had long dreamed of being a pilot until a recruitment test declared he was color blind, was to join the crew as a flight engineer for that historic Aug. 1, 1943, mission.
At the last minute, however, orders came down for him to stay on the ground because his services as a mechanic were too vital. Many planes were lost in that raid, including some of his Snow White planes and the bomber he would have crewed had fate not intervened. Among the treasure trove of war mementos and correspondence he shared with me, were letters he received from the family of Clarence Gooden, the young pilot who was killed.
After the war Amos returned to Aurora, married Rita, his East Aurora High School sweetheart, and continued the career he’d started with his father in the painting and decorating business. He spent two years in Japan during the Korean War — eye testing then revealed he had perfect vision — on flight and ground crews.
Always active and fit, Amos took tremendous pride in the fact he could still wear his Army Air Corps uniform. He worked at Nicholson Painting until well into his 80s. And a couple years ago, The Beacon-News ran a front page photo of him, at age 93, skydiving from a plane with his son Kent and grandson Adam.
“Flying .... there’s no other feeling like it in the world,” he would tell me many times, always with a smile, always with a twinkle in his eyes.
To say this tall, slender man led a full life would be an understatement. And the more time I spent with Amos, the more I grew to appreciate not only his skills as a mechanic and artist, but the pride he felt as he looked back on those years in the deserts of Egypt and Libya. You could sense that pride when he was interviewed in 2008 after taking part in the Honor Flight trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. You could sense it when he recounted with such enthusiasm the presentations he gave to high school students and others in the community.
“Young people need to understand how important this part of history is,” he would say, frustration at times spilling over his words.
Amos wanted “Snow White” written not only to bring attention to the nose art on World War II aircraft, but to make sure the world understood the vital and what he described as “untold role” of the aircraft mechanics. He, more than most of us, respected the bravery of the flight crews who climbed aboard those Liberators with a gut full of bombs. But he also fully understood the efforts it took for the “Desert Rats” to keep those war birds in the sky while living in an often unforgiving alien environment.
Like so many of these old veterans, Amos Nicholson had a special story to tell. I’m glad I got to hear so much of it.
His brush with history was profound.