RIP John Nicely

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On December 22, 2022, RHD sadly lost one of its own. John Nicely, program director of RHD Residential Service Systems (RSS) and 40-year RHD veteran, passed away in his home in Haverford, PA.

During John’s long, distinguished career at RHD, he served as a vital team member and leader who incorporated RHD’s mission and values into everything he did – as a staff member and mentor.

Sheldon Kilby, currently serving as interim director at RSS, worked alongside John at RSS for 30 years. He remembers John as someone who created a family environment for both participants and employees. Other employees worked at RSS for over 20 years mainly because of John’s leadership. “He had that kind of effect on people.”

John loved helping with preparations for the RSS annual holiday party. “When we first started doing it, the managers would do all the cooking for everybody. We invited participants, employees, and everyone’s families,” Sheldon says. In those early days, John would drive to South Philadelphia to buy a whole pig for roasting, just one part of the impressive holiday spread that became renowned throughout Montgomery County and attracted revelers from RHD’s main office.

John often thought outside the box, and he was passionate about connecting RSS participants with housing opportunities. He led RHD’s first residential program for persons with intellectual disabilities. He not only developed the program, but also helped participants through the process of finding and paying for a home. Today there are participants living in condos and receiving support from RSS, as a result of John’s efforts and vision.

In the early years of RHD, John coordinated the licensing program, which is an extremely complicated and cumbersome process. Yet John was able to coordinate with 50 different units before writing a plan of correction that made everything fit.

For many years, John served and advocated for RHD’s participation in the Pennsylvania Advocates and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities (PAR). He spearheaded the movement for RHD’s Ethics Committee to provide support to units facing the most critical life decisions.

John continually advocated for those in need, to ensure RHD was providing innovative, quality services. He was a member of the MAX (Moving Agencies Towards Excellence) Association — a leading association of human service providers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties — where he not only represented RSS but all RHD programs in Montgomery County.

John was devoted to his family. He and his wife raised three children, including two adopted through the foster care system. John embodied RHD’s values in his life at work and at home.

John was a devoted Phillies fan, who went to games with RSS participants and employees. He was a talented musician and ardent fan of the Rolling Stones, often getting backstage passes to their shows. (He had a special friendship with keyboardist and musical director Chuck Leavell.)

The entire RHD community sends its love and condolences to John’s family and friends.

A memorial will be held on Saturday, March 18, 2-5 pm, at the Great American Pub in Conshohocken, PA. Please see the flyer for more information.