Debra Sue Nicholson |

Debra Sue Nicholson

Debra Sue Nicholson
Provided Photo
Debra Sue


April 20, 1959 – September 27, 2020

Our hearts are broken and our minds bewildered at the tragic passing of our dear mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend who was killed on September 27, 2020 when the plane she was piloting crashed shortly after take-off in Santa Barbara.

In the words of the countless hundreds of people who loved and admired Debbie, she was beautiful, kind, adventurous, energetic, whip-crack smart, fun to be with, a positive force, spirited, good at bringing people together, upbeat, enthusiastic, warm, generous, devoted, a loyal friend, fearless, humorous, interesting, witty, loving, accomplished, unforgettable, inspirational, efficient, resourceful, disciplined, compassionate, one-of-a-kind, remarkable, authentic, a bright light, independent, courageous, my hero, the bottom line. She had an infectious happy spirit, high-wattage energy, a tremendous sense of fun, and lived each day to the fullest. It’s impossible to imagine the world without her and we were the lucky ones to have had her in our lives.

Debbie was born in 1959 to Marilyn and Bob Nicholson and graduated Arcadia High School (’77), Stanford (’81) and UVA law school (’84). She took after her father who passed away two years to the day before her and taught her that she could do anything she set her mind to. She continued to talk to him and ask for his guidance as she managed many extended family matters. She began her career practicing tax law in San Francisco and went on to have her own estate planning law practice in Tahoe City. In her lifetime she was a cheerleader, song girl, president of the speech team, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Big Sister, congressional intern, secretary/treasurer of the Tahoe Truckee Bar Association, judge pro-tem for the Placer and Nevada Counties Courts system, water utility board member, newly appointed member of the Truckee Tahoe Airport Advisory Committee, co-correspondent for Stanford class of ’81, and member of the Tahoe Yacht Club and Valley Hunt Club.

Debbie worked incredibly hard so that she could play even harder, and she became a pilot and loved flying her plane because it gave her the ability to accomplish a multitude of projects and activities. She loved world-wide traveling with family and friends and all types of sporting activities but especially skiing and mountain biking. Many of us found ourselves behind her skiing West Face or climbing to Stanford Rock but she always waited for us with humble patience. She took on each day with purpose, gusto and razor-sharp focus whether it was flying to Utah for mountain biking, Sun Valley for skiing or Los Angeles and Phoenix for business and visiting family and friends.

Debbie leaves behind her two beloved sons, Bob and Will; her mother Marilyn; siblings Diane and Bob; brother-in-law Jim and sister-in-law Shannon; ex-husband and father of Bob, John (Tinker) Ward and ex-husband and father of Will, Pete Craig; nieces and nephews, Meagan, Nick, Sam, Sophie, Jack, Ben and Bryce; as well as numerous cousins and nieces and nephews through marriage who will all miss her for the rest of their days. Debbie’s passing leaves a big hole in a lot of people’s lives but we know she would have wanted all of her friends and loved ones to live life like she did, with passion and energy and a commitment to positivity that will honor her incredible life.

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