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In Memoriam: Nicholas “Nick” Willocks

Contributed by Today’s AC

Nicholas “Nick” Johnston Willocks passed away suddenly on Sunday, December 27, 2020, in Stone Mountain, Georgia, from cardiac arrest. He was 78.

Nicholas “Nick” Willocks
Nicholas “Nick” Willocks

Nick was born in Maryville, Tennessee, to Helen Johnston Willocks and Glenn “Doc” Willocks. The Willocks family moved to south Florida when Nick was a teen. He graduated from Seacrest High School and earned his bachelor’s in fine arts from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. In his young adult life, he was a lifeguard, avid fisherman and boater, swimming and sailing instructor, served in the U.S. Army National Guard, and worked on the pit crew of Sebring Raceway – a joy he reminisced about the rest of his life. And in his Mad Men days, he owned and operated an advertising agency called Nick Willocks and Associates.

In his professional life, Nick served as a marketing and public relations director for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesale distributors and later became the owner and publisher of Today’s Air Conditioning and Refrigeration News. Over the course of his career, he was active in many contractor associations in the southeast and beyond, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FACCA), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), and others. Nick cared deeply about the connection between indoor air quality and health. He was especially proud to have founded the Indoor Air Quality Association that offered the first indoor air quality education and certification program to HVAC industry professionals. He was honored to have received many awards for his contributions to the industry over his many years of service.

He raised his family in Longwood, Florida. Upon his retirement, Nick split his time between his home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and his farm in Zionville, North Carolina. Though he spent much of his life in Florida, he remained a mountain boy at heart. He recently moved to Georgia for medical treatment at Emory and decided to stay to be closer to family.

Nick is survived by Mary Ann Lilly Willocks, his loving wife of more than 50 years; his daughter Stacey Ann Willocks, son-in-law Chris Higdon, and granddaughters Virginia Anne Willocks Hodlick, Madeline Elizabeth Willocks Hodlick, and step-granddaughter Evelyn Virginia Higdon, of Decatur, Georgia; his daughter Jessica Willocks Duncan, son-in-law Robert Massey Duncan, and grandsons Patrick Willocks Duncan and Andrew Massey Duncan of Washington, DC. He was the second of four brothers and is survived by Ronald Homer Willocks of Longmont, Colorado; Glenn Curtis Willocks of Gulfport, Florida; and James Steven Willocks of Purlear, North Carolina; and their wives, children, and grandchildren.

One of Nick’s favorite comedians, Victor Borge, said, “laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” and Nick lived this ethos. He loved connecting with family and friends (and strangers!) through his wonderful sense of humor. He was joyful, outgoing, had an infectiously positive spirit, and he had many favorite things. Here are just a few: living his life with Mary Ann; joking around with his three (also hilarious) brothers; spending time with his daughters and sons-in-law; being called D-Dad by his grandchildren (and the neighbor kids); his countless friendships; fast cars (especially Formula One Racing); making, gifting, and drinking red wine; creating large, bold abstract paintings, graphic design, and illustration; his cabin and barns in the mountains; improvisational cooking (no recipes for our guy!); the Great Smoky Mountains; Mosquito Lagoon; fishing for speck, red fish, bone fish, and mountain trout; his Kabota tractor and utility vehicle; his Ford pickup truck; lingering in hardware stores and antique shops; mountain music (Doc Watson, Flat and Scruggs); classic rock-n-roll (Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac); eating carrot cake on his birthday; wood working and spending time in his workshop; petting, talking with, and adoring dogs, cats, and chickens; Smoky Mountain Black Bears; breakfast sausage; sunrise bike rides at the beach; collecting olive shells; building and fixing; growing grapes and vegetable gardening; storytelling (and story listening); and sharing food, wine, and laughter with those he loved.

He loved his life and he lived it generously, creatively, and fully. And if he were able to comment on his passing, he’d likely say (with a grin) that he was “worn slap out.” His passing leaves a huge hole in our lives that we are committed to fill by honoring his unpretentious, warm, and humorous ways of staying connected with our family, friends, and even with the strangers we meet.

When the pandemic recedes, the big Willocks family will gather at the farm in NC for a cookout and fireworks extravaganza to rival all previous July 4th parties in Willocks history.

If you are moved to make a donation in Nick’s memory, please donate to the Marine Discovery Center (MDC) in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Nick volunteered with MDC because their mission was near and dear to his heart. Please note that your donation is in honor of Nick Willocks.