Paula “Polly” Nichols unexpectedly passed away at the age of 54 on July 16, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee with her two beloved children at her side. She was born in Huntington, Indiana on February 25, 1966. Her mother, Lea Robinson, says Polly was born smiling.
Paula grew up in the small town of Sparta, Tennessee and everybody knew her big smile and free spirit. As a girl, she loved the hayfields, doing tobacco work with her daddy,playing basketball, and being around animals. As soon as she was finished with the chores, she would be looking for trouble with her sister, cousins, and friends. Always curious and adventurous, Polly felt like she needed to leave Sparta and spread her wings. Shortly after graduating from White County High School in 1984, she enlisted in the United States Army.
During her years as an eye technician in the Army and then later as a military spouse, Polly lived life to the very fullest. Friends and acquaintances alike described her as lighting up a room and being the life of the party. While stationed in South Korea, Paula met and fell in love with an equally gregarious soldier named Danny Nichols. The two were married not long after and traveled the world together.
Polly skied for the first time in the majestic Alps of Garmisch, Germany and scuba dived on the island of Okinawa, Japan. She ran 26.2 miles and completed her first marathon in Naha, Japan. Polly and Danny took multiple road trips across the United States, stopping along the way to visit landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Redwood National Park. She loved camping and would pitch a tent anywhere, no matter what the forecast was. While overseas, Paula spent nights studying and in 2006 she achieved her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from American InterContinental University.
The greatest adventure of Paula’s life started when she became a mother. Polly always said that the best birthday present of her life was in 1992 when she gave birth to her daughter, Sydney. A little over a year later she delivered her son, Jack on November 20, 1993. These babies meant the world to Polly and were truly the two loves of her life. She would talk about them endlessly to everyone she met, beaming with pride over her bright daughter and veteran son. She remained incredibly close to both children throughout her life and her spirit will never leave them.
One of Paula’s favorite jobs was when she worked as a personal fitness trainer. She loved her years spent working at Total Woman Fitness, and her high energy was a perfect match to motivate others to get fit. She spent many nights creating and practicing kickboxing and step aerobics routines. As children, Sydney and Jack have fond memories of watching their mother’s aerobics classes from the corner of the room, and sometimes trying to follow along in class.
Paula met many obstacles later in life and faced them all fearlessly. She survived a painful divorce, worked hard as a single parent, beat breast cancer, overcame addictions, lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and battled chronic pain related to her breast cancer treatments. Throughout all of the dark moments, she kept her chin up and refused to let them define her.
After her children left the nest, she decided to move back home to Sparta in 2012.
While in Sparta, Polly worked hard to provide for her mother and father. She was often found mowing their lawn, working in the garden, or running errands around town. When her daddy Howard got sick, Polly proudly took on the role of caretaker for him and never complained once.
Paula had a romantic reuniting with her high school sweetheart, Roger Neal. They enjoyed cruising in the country, being outdoors, and cutting up with their family and friends. Roger took care of Polly when she went through breast cancer, going to every single appointment with her and shaving her head when her hair began to fall out. He loved to remind her that she was the most beautiful bald woman in the world. He cared for her until the end of her life, and stayed at her hospital bedside until her children arrived. Her family is eternally grateful that some of her final moments were spent in the arms of someone who loved her so dearly.
Paula loved working in her garden, writing, coloring, spending time in nature, reading, caring for animals, taking pictures, and spending time with her children. People who knew Polly will remember her as genuinely kind, passionate, fun loving, selfless, sentimental, and high-spirited. She had an infectious energy about her that raised other people up. She was also stubborn, hot-tempered, and unconcerned by the opinions of others. As her big sister Pam says, “If you knew her, you either loved her or hated her, and that was up to you. She didn’t care.”
There is nothing in this world as strong as a mother’s love. Paula’s memory and spirit lives on vibrantly through her two children. She will be terribly missed and never forgotten by the many who love her dearly. Her children will hold a private ash scattering ceremony over the Pacific Ocean, as Paula had requested. Some of her ashes will also be buried with honors at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.
For those wishing to commemorate Polly, the family recommends donating to your local animal shelter or planting something new in your garden. For those wishing to help the family financially, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.