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 Grosse Pointe Shores Public Safety Lt. William Nicholson — standing next to a supervisor patrol vehicle — will retire this month after a 29-year career in the Shores.

Grosse Pointe Shores Public Safety Lt. William Nicholson — standing next to a supervisor patrol vehicle — will retire this month after a 29-year career in the Shores.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Veteran Grosse Pointe Shores fire investigator and officer to retire

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 9, 2019

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Lt. William “Bill” Nicholson can’t forget his first day with the Grosse Pointe Shores Public Safety Department on July 12, 1990.

“I met someone special when I walked in,” he said.

That someone special, Shores Public Safety officer Jackie Renard, is his wife; they married about a year after that fateful encounter and have been married for the last 28 years.

That was one of the most memorable moments of Nicholson’s long and distinguished career in the Shores. He will retire July 26 after 29 years.

Nicholson, 55, grew up in Waterford. His father was the president of an insurance company, and his mother worked at Hudson’s department store at Summit Place Mall in Oakland County.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to be, but I saw (an ad for) an (emergency medical technician) class in the newspaper,” he said.

Nicholson signed up for the class and found it interesting. That led to a stint with Fleet Ambulance in Pontiac, and then he decided to go to the Oakland Fire Academy. After graduating, Nicholson said, he started working as a volunteer firefighter in Waterford.

When a full-time position with the Waterford Fire Department opened up in 1989, Nicholson took it. A dispatcher told Nicholson he’d make a good police officer, so Nicholson entered the Oakland Police Academy and earned a degree from there as well. When he learned that Grosse Pointe Shores was looking for a public safety officer — all Shores officers are trained in police, fire and emergency medical services, either as paramedics or EMTs — he realized it would be a perfect fit.

“This was a pretty neat place because you could use all three skills,” Nicholson said. “I like that there’s such variety. You can be a police officer one minute and a firefighter the next, and be in the back of the ambulance the next.

“And then, what made it really interesting was fire investigation,” continued Nicholson, who has spent the last 19 years on the Grosse Pointe-Harper Woods Fire Investigation Team. The team started around 2000, and he’s now the only original officer left.

“We were involved in (looking into) every major fire (in the Pointes and Harper Woods),” Nicholson said. These included conflagrations at Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in Grosse Pointe Park and the Hunt Club in Grosse Pointe Woods, he said.

“He’s very learned in the area of fire and fire investigation,” Shores Public Safety Director John Schulte said.

Schulte, who is retired from Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety, said he’s known Nicholson since Nicholson started working in the Shores. He said their children attended St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in St. Clair Shores together.

“He’s a very pleasant person to work with,” Schulte said. “He’s just been a great friend. … More than anything else, he’s brought stability (to the department). He’s contributed so much over the years. He’s got an awful lot of training and an awful lot of experience. He can handle any portion of the job. We’re going to miss him.”

Sgt. Doug Fraser, who has known Nicholson since Fraser started in 1996, echoed Schulte’s praise.

“When I was promoted to sergeant seven years ago, Bill was also promoted to lieutenant,” Fraser said. “They put us together on the same platoon. Bill was kind of a mentor.”

From Nicholson, Fraser said he learned the finer points of the job and got great advice, including how to be a command officer. Nicholson is “very easygoing” and someone other officers respect, he said.

“He’s just an all-around good person,” Fraser said.

Renard, the first female officer in Grosse Pointe Shores, has been retired since she was sidelined by a serious on-the-job back injury in 1994. She and her husband had two sons, one of whom died in March 2018. The couple’s other son is currently working on his master’s degree, Nicholson said.

Nicholson and his wife used to live in Mount Clemens, but about a year ago, they moved into the Sylvan Lake home that Nicholson’s late grandfather, a doctor, built in 1933.

“My full-time job now is fixing up this (home),” he said.

The longer commute to work was one of the factors in Nicholson’s decision to retire now. He and his wife also hope to buy back a family cottage in McMillan Township, in the Upper Peninsula, that was sold in the 1980s. He said they’d like to  possibly spend summers at the cottage.

Nicholson is an avid reader who said he plans to “delve into my giant pile of library books” in retirement. But he acknowledged that he’ll miss the people he’s met along the way.

“I’ve met some really nice people here, both residents and people that work here,” Nicholson said.