By Mark Wineka
Frieda Nikolai, a behind-the-scenes community leader in Salisbury, died Tuesday.
“Salisbury has lost a true friend in losing her, and I have, too,” Mayor Susan Kluttz said. “I never knew anyone with the energy she had.”
In 2006, Nikolai won the Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award for a life dedicated to community enhancement. It was determined then that Nikolai had been involved in at least 55 different city projects.
In retirement, though one could never say she retired, Nikolai chaired the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council, served as special events planner for History Salisbury Foundation, was a staff person for Livingstone College, co-founded a support group for breast cancer survivors, co-chaired the ARC/Rowan Festival of Trees, served on a capital campaign committee for the Freedman’s Memorial, helped with the organization of the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center, consulted the Symphony Guild and headed Kluttz’s five campaigns for City Council.
Those things just scratched the surface. She also was active in many initiatives at St. John’s Lutheran Church, where she was a member.
“If you wanted something done, she would get it done,” Kluttz said, “and she knew the right way to do things. … She was always looking for ways to improve Salisbury.”
Kluttz described Nikolai as a perfectionist and a strong-willed person who “put everything into a project.”
Others mentioned her strong faith, good sense of humor, kindness and the love she had for her family in Michigan. They marveled at the number of friends she had in different social circles and said she was a tremendous role model.
“She just did an awful lot of work people did not know about,” Kluttz said.
An intensely private person, Nikolai told friends and family she did not want a newspaper obituary nor a funeral service here. She had been dealing with cancer for many months.
Nikolai was a Michigan native, and her body will be shipped there.
Nikolai first introduced herself to Kluttz 10 years ago, when she read that Kluttz, a first-time candidate for City Council, wanted to do something to improve race relations in Salisbury.
In offering to help Kluttz with her campaign, Nikolai laid out all the things she needed to win, Kluttz recalled. It filled a legal pad, she added.
The women formed a partnership and friendship. Kluttz said Nikolai’s enthusiasm was as strong for the fifth campaign as the first.
As a Livingstone College employee, Nikolai helped to start the Board of Visitors and a mentoring program that would pair up community leaders with Livingstone College students. She also worked hard in developing the city’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.
As a grass-roots fundraiser, Nikolai had few equals and made a professional career of it. Her job first brought her to Salisbury in 1953. She returned here after her retirement.
“Every one of us are human beings, and every one of us has the same feelings,” she told the Post once. “We’re the same, but we’re different. Once we get past the acceptance, we can start making greater strides.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mark Wineka