Everybody knew Clif Nickens around Ascension Parish. He was the guy that made you feel special. On Oct. 4, 2014 at the age of 68 the guy who could light up the room and loved the world, left the world. Yet thanks to Gonzales’ Mark LaCour, Nickens’ life lives on in story. LaCour wrote a book entitled, “How Clif Nickens Beat Polio!” and in it he shares the life of the man the Parish of Ascension as a whole loved.
LaCour and Nickens went to the same high school, but weren’t really buddies then. It wasn’t really until March of 2009 when LaCour became the president of the Gonzales Rotary Club that he connected to Nickens.
When LaCour became president of the Rotary Club, Rotary International’s worldwide mission to eradicate polio meant more to him.
“I thought about my high school classmate who had polio all his life, and so I invited him to come speak to the club,” LaCour said. “He said it was the first time he had spoke about it because it’s a private thing and is hard to open up about it.”
“It was then that I thought, ‘this guy needs to be recognized’,” LaCour said. “He overcomes adversity when life through him a curve and he didn’t let it bog him down, he didn’t use it as an excuse, all he did was thrive. So I started taking more interest in him.”
According to polioeradication.org, Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours.
In 1985 Rotary International made the endowment to the world when it put a float in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California and said it’s going to eradicate Polio.
When LaCour began building a friendship with Nickens, the two often talked about writing a book and there were always things that disallowed it from coming to a reality.
But after Nickens died in October, LaCour was invited to speak at his funeral and it was then that LaCour committed to finishing a book about him.
After the funeral, LaCour kept his word and started on the book. He finished the book in six weeks and it took another two weeks to get it printed.
“I think the book has a lot of meaning in it,” LaCour said. “It would be a great gift to someone who has an attitude problem maybe. Life’s all about how we react, and Clif was thrown a curve and he hit a homerun, basically because he was taught to work and never feel sorry for himself.”
LaCour believes Nickens showed the world he cared and said that is one of the book’s themes, and the other is perseverance.
“How did he overcome the disability he had as a child, as a great role model,” LaCour said. “He is someone in our community that we should talk about for decades to come.”
LaCour wrote several chapters, but also had contributors from Nickens’ family tell personal accounts and memories of time spent with him.
There is a chapter on Polio eradication and LaCour said the job is not done, due to cases still in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“Until it’s gone completely, it can still come back and be a worldwide menace,” LaCour said.
To help with immunization, for every book sold 12 children would be immunized against the crippling and deadly poliomyelitis virus. LaCour said Nickens wouldn’t have it any other way than to give back. That’s part of the reason why Nickens was made an honorary Rotarian.
“He was a phenomenal Rotarian,” LaCour said. “The leadership, service and embracing of diversity, his friendship, makes him a Rotarian.”
“He made other people feel special, he did service and he has all the traits of a Rotarian and that’s why we made him an honorary Rotarian. People loved him because he loved you.”
LaCour added, “Follow Clif’s lead. Show people that you care, make people feel special.”
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. He had a great attitude to he was successful raising a family, and everybody that associated with him he took care of and did right by them.”
To purchase a book and/or donate, LaCour has them for sell for $30 at Wright’s Furniture at 202 W. Ascension St. in Gonzales.