Ray Nichting was ‘impactful’ Army vet, barber, athlete, coach and family man

Memorial service, burial set for Tuesday in Hamilton

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

The landscape of Butler County sports could have been rewritten on July 7, 1953.

That’s when Ray Nichting was severely injured during the Korean War fighting in the bloody Battle of Pork Chop Hill. One of Nichting’s fellow U.S. Army soldiers jumped into a foxhole and was killed by a grenade, while Nichting lost his right leg below the knee.

Several hours after being hit, Nichting said he crawled down the hill over the bodies of dead American soldiers.

In a 2011 article in the JournalNews, Nichting said: “I’m a firm believer in Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how many promises I made up there that night. I’ve kept about half of them.”

After a year of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., Nichting returned to Hamilton and married his high school sweetheart, raised five children, became a youth baseball coach, prolific bowler and barber.

Nichting died on Wednesday at his Hamilton home. He was 89.

One of Nichting’s three sons, Tim, was asked what lessons he took from his father’s life.

“You’re going to make me cry,” he said.

Nichting then talked about his father’s love of baseball, how he served as a baseball coach and mentor to hundreds of West Side Little League players, how his military service humbled him, all his athletic accomplishment, and his greatest love, Carmela, his wife of 67 years.

“She was a special wife and they had a great relationship,” Nichting said of his mother. “She was an understanding woman who loved her man.”

His parents served as “a true example how to love each other,” he said.

Nichting graduated from Roger Bacon High School in 1951 where he was a three-sport letterman. He was drafted by the Boston Braves, where he played two seasons of professional baseball in the Georgia State League for the Fitzgerald Generals. His contract was sold to the Tampa Smokers in the Florida International League.

Before his third season, Nichting was drafted into the Army, serving in the 17th Infantry Regiment. Although he was offered a position on the Armed Forces Baseball Team, he chose to serve on the battlefield.

For his service and sacrifice, he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Korean Service Medal.

His father rarely discussed his military service, his son said.

“That was something you weren’t supposed to talk about,” Nichting said.

Nichting wore a prosthetic leg, though many people never knew that, his son said.

Nichting owned and operated Ray’s Barber Shop in Middletown for 51 years, rolled numerous 300 games and is best known for his impact on the baseball diamond.

“He knew he had something to give back to baseball,” his son said. “His greatest passion was baseball.”

Nichting was there when the West Side Little Leaguers advanced to the Little League World Series in 1991 and 1993.

“For all of my dad’s accomplishments, that has to be one of his greatest,” his son said.

The West Siders finished second in this year’s Little League World Series.

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller called Nichting “a high character guy” who was “an impactful person to so many.”

Nichting was inducted into the Greater Hamilton Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1990; four years later he was inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame; then in 2016, Badin High School Hall of Fame recognized Ray and Carmela Nichting with a Legacy Family Award.

He was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Knights of Columbus in 1988, and three years later, the City of Hamilton named him Citizen of the Year for taking his West Side Little League team to the 1991 World Series.

His survivors include his wife and children; Ronald L. (Mary Jo) Nichting, Thomas L. (Penny) Nichting, Connie S. (Gary) Dirheimer, Timothy R. (Christina Bloomfield) Nichting and Nancy A. Nichting; nine grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Peter in Chains Catholic Church, 382 Liberty Ave, with Father Michael Pucke officiating. Burial will follow at St. Stephens Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the West Side Little League or Stephen T. Badin High School.

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