In Memoriam

Western New York Engine Man, Dale Nickerson, Dies at Home

Dale in his shop

Dale in his shop, a converted chicken coop.

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One of the anchors of the western New York gas engine scene, and a man well known to these pages, has passed away. Dale E. Nickerson, 71, of 8670 Glasgow Road, Cassadaga, N.Y., died Monday, May 26, 2003, at home. Dale was born April 6, 1932 in Cassadaga, the son of Earl and Ruth (Erickson) Nickerson.

A self-employed repairman, Dale considered his work to be his hobby. He was past president of the Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Association (where he also held other offices), and a member of the Cold Springs Power Museum, Pioneer Gas and Steam Engine Association and various other gas engine clubs.

Dale's extensive knowledge of engines and his interest in the old iron collective earned him the respect and appreciation of collectors around the country. He was a regular contributor to GEM, most recently in the April 2003 issue, writing about his 1880s three-cycle Schoenner, an engine he was actively working on with hopes of getting it running this year.

Dale's passing hasn't gone without notice in the hobby. One show, the 9th Annual Show and Swap Meet held by Hit & Miss Enterprises, June 6-7, in Orwell, Ohio, changed its name in his honor. Following Dale's death, Hit & Miss owner Ed Deiss officially changed the name of this year's show to the Dale Nickerson Memorial Show and Swap Meet. 'Dale was part of the Hit & Miss family,' Ed says. 'He did magneto work for us, along with being a close personal friend. We always found a place for Dale to sleep when he was here at our show, and the ladies loved him and he got lots of hugs. I'm just sorry we didn't live closer to each other. Every year at the gas engine seminar here at our swap Dale would sit on the panel of seasoned engine men to give advice and answer questions. I'll always remember that grin when I introduced him as being 'the greatest.' I would then ask folks how I knew that and then tell them, 'Because he told me so.' This always got a chuckle, but he surely was the 'greatest' in my book.'

Emery Masiker, Stockton, N.Y., was a close friend of Dale's, and he always marveled at Dale's ability to work with the most rudimentary of tools. Emery remembers watching Dale make a timing gear from tin, laying out the design from the remnants of an old gear and then cutting the finished gear with a hand saw. 'Dale didn't have a big fancy workshop, he worked under primitive conditions,' Emery says. 'He cleaned out a chicken coop you could barely stand up in, and in 1963 it became his workshop. He had a little lathe, a little drill press, he never had a welder, and it was amazing what he did. He made different pieces of tooling to hold pieces to make parts for magnetos, parts a lot of guys wouldn't mess with because it took longer to make the tooling to hold the piece than it did to make the piece.' Emery remembers lining Dale up with the rare 5 HP DuBois engine Dale restored, an engine featured on the August 1989 cover of GEM 'Nobody else would tackle the project, but he didn't care, it was a challenge and that's what he was looking for.'

Daniel 'Dan' Lee Davis, 57, Anderson, Ind., died April 9, 2003, following a brief illness. He was a lifelong resident of Anderson and was employed as a skilled tradesman for Delco Remy for 32 years, retiring in October 1999.

He was a member of the Madison County Historical Society, Portland Gas Engine Club, United Auto Workers Local 662 and the Horseless Carriage Club of America. He loved history, antiques, gas engines and antique automobiles. He was well known as a collector of all Anderson history and things made in Anderson. He had accumulated a history of the Lambert gas engine, as well as a few Lambert engines. He also owned an Anderson auto.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara (Hastings) Davis, Anderson; his mother, Elizabeth Davis, Anderson; a brother, Charles F. Davis, Okeechobee, Fla.; brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Anita Idlewine, Springport, Ind.; and five nieces and nephews.

Submitted by Bill Miller, Anderson, Ind.

William (Bill) Farmer, 83, of Eaton, Ohio, died Tuesday, May 6, 2003, at Greenbriar Nursing center in Eaton, Ohio. Bill was an avid collector of farm equipment and gas engines. Percheron horses were also one of his passions; he was inducted into the Percheron Horse Association of America Hall of Fame of in 1999.

Bill had tractors, gas engines and a Port Huron steam engine that he enjoyed exhibiting. Many of us have fond memories of seeing Bill on his Rumely 6 tractor, a trailer loaded with gas engines in tow, at the annual parade and show of the Southwestern Ohio Engine and Tractor Association, of which Bill was a member.

Bill was also a member of the Ohio State Cornhuskers Association, Midwest Horse and Mule Club and Circus Fans of America (one of Bill's hobbies was circus wagons pulled by his Percheron horses). He was a member of the Whitewater Valley Railroad in Connersville, Ind., and a life member of the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association in Portland, Ind.

A team of 16 Percheron horses pulled Bill's funeral hearse to his final resting place at State Line Cemetery, Richmond, Ind.

Submitted by Russell L. Farmer, Eaton, Ohio.