He received an appointment to USMA from Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin of the 1st Congressional District of Montana and joined his future classmates on 4 Jul 1941.
A classmate wrote in the ’44 Howitzer: “The fantastic mind with a body to match. Consistently inconsistent, tough but great-hearted, ‘The Ace’ has been ‘gettin’ knuckles’ from The Fates for too long. With inconceivably little formal education, he proved that common sense is the real essential. His repulsive but conclusive wit and earthy sense of values go to the Air Corps. I’m making book on you, Nick.”
Unfortunately, because of poor eyesight, Nick was not commissioned with his classmates in June 1944. While his eyesight was being evaluated at Walter Reed, he sat for the Foreign Service examinations. Given a disability discharge, he joined Willys-Overland as a research engineer to await the results of the exam. While he was working on a jeep project at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a classmate introduced him to Adele “Del” Marie Wilkens.
After acceptance by the State Department and a “crash course on the basics of life in the foreign service,” he was placed in charge of the American Consulate in Antigua. Following a transfer to Columbia, Nick decided that that revolution-torn country was no place to raise a family, left the foreign service, and joined an advertising firm in New York City.
By this time, he and Adele had married, but, as he later put it, “The leisurely life in the tropics had taken it’s toll, I could not tolerate the white heat of the New York pace for the infernal commuting between Nyack and New York. Hence, I packed my carpet bag and returned to lovely Antigua. I have built a little hotel right on the beach and also own a theater.”
The little hotel, The Lord Nelson, was the first commercial lodging on Antigua. Nick operated it successfully until around 1980, when he went across the island and built “Callaloo” next to Curtain Bluff, the most expensive resort on the island. As a classmate put it, “Nick entertained his friends at Callaloo while Del operated a strictly-for-profit Lord Nelson.” Unfortunately, Lord Nelson was badly damaged in a hurricane in September 1998.
Nick became a legend in the Caribbean. He was known on every island. He and a big Pole named Stash (nobody could spell or pronounce his name, Stanislaw Vishinski), became partners in building fuel depots around the islands for yachts and other private vessels. Nick did the politicking and Stash did the construction.
Nick loved to travel, but he didn’t own a suitcase or a wallet. He carried a sport coat and an open canvas shopping bag containing changes of underwear, several bottles of Glenlivet Scotch, and a box of Cuban cigars (gifts for his hosts, he said). Close inspection would reveal a tie around a polo shirt and one pair of khaki trousers. Otherwise, he was immaculate and dignified.
He didn’t trust wallets. He carried a thick roll of $100 bills crammed into his pocket. He never had a credit card. His only card was an Antiguan driver’s license with a picture of him holding a glass of Scotch. Late in life, he finally got a social security number.
Nick was a character among characters—a star among lesser lights. And Del let him shine. There are legends about Nick’s eccentric behavior. A match for the likes of Hemingway, Nick was surprisingly well read and had a thorough knowledge of world affairs.
Nick never missed a class reunion at West Point. He was extremely proud of his classmates and the West Point tradition. His friends varied from the Mellons of Philadelphia and New York to the nearby goatherd.
Nick and Del had three handsome sons—Nick, Johnny, and Jimmy; and four beautiful daughters—Mary, Jill “Jelly Bean,” Katherine, and Elizabeth “Dee Dee.” Sadly, Mary and Dee Dee preceded him in death. Nick, Jr., became a very respected doctor in Antigua, and John became a prominent and influential lawyer.