Those who knew him are wondering what life will be like without him.
One of the founders of Mackie's Pizza, Mackie G. Nicholes. 70, Harrisburg, died at 3 p.m. Monday at Memorial Hospital, Carbondale.
He and his wife Roxanna started the regionally famous pizza restaurant in Harrisburg's Parker Plaza in 1972. They moved the restaurant to it's current location at 502 E. Poplar and the restaurant thrived. In 2006 the family-owned business expanded to Marion where their second restaurant was greeted with enthusiasm.
John McPeek, manager of the Marion restaurant, said Mackie's management style was performance oriented.
"He expected you to do your best and provide good customer service. He wanted professionalism when answering the phone. He had a strong personality and knew everyone. He was super friendly," said McPeek.
McPeek was hired as a manager in 1991 and became the manager of the Marion restaurant in 2006. Mackie's son Robbie manages the Harrisburg restaurant.
"Mackie never really retired. He wanted a call at 1 p.m. every day with the sales figures. But he came in to the restaurant less often in the late '90's. He was a pleasure to work with, like a father figure to me. He was a great teacher," said McPeek.
"Mackie touched a lot of young people's lives. Many former employees went on to graduate from college and some became doctors. Many of our employees started at age 16."
Rhonda Figg, 47, Harrisburg, of Saluki Travel — another of Nicholes' business ventures — said she began working for Nicholes in 1984 and described him as "a big comedian."
"I worked for Mackie for half my life. People didn't know the Mackie I knew. He treated me like I was his own child. He and I would fight and he would come back five minutes later and apologize and give me a big hug. He was more than an employer," Figg said.
"He was there when my first child was born."
William "Bosco" Watson, Harrisburg, said, "I knew Mackie since he moved to town.
He's one of those people you never forget. He was a practical joker. Mackie was a really big man, 6 feet 5 inches tall. He knew all the local sports figures from the St. Louis Cardinals and Southern Illinois University. He knew them from when he owned WEBQ radio and then WSIL TV in the eighties. He was an avid sportsman and fan."
Sports, pizza and travel were among Nicholes passions.
"He traveled all over the world. He was part owner of Saluki Travel Agency here in Harrisburg. He was a real character. Very active with kids. He was a great guy to be around. You either liked him or you didn't. He was always honest with you. He was the second longest member of the Rotary Club," said Watson.
Page 2 of 2 - Nicholes was born in Lowell, Mass., March 31, 1943. He graduated from Easely High School, Easley, S.C. attended Chowan College, Murfreesboro, S.C., where he played football and graduated with an associates of arts degree. From there he went to Bethel College, McKenzie, Tenn., and graduated with a bachelor of science degree.
Mackie loved sports and announced games on the radio.
After college he began his teaching career in Atlanta, Chicago and Lake Ridge, Ind.
In 1968 her married Roxanna Buse in Mason City. They both taught for three and half years in northern Indiana before moving to Harrisburg in 1972.
They opened Monical's Pizza in Parker Plaza and then changed the name to "Mackie's Pizza" after they moved the restaurant to Poplar Street.
Chicago sports were not on the local radio and TV channels. Mackie purchased WEBQ radio. He broadcast SIU basketball games, and later Illinois football with Dick Butkus. He served as director of the Illinois Broadcasting Association. He traded WEBQ for WSIL TV which he owned with three partners.
He sold WSIL and opened Thunderbird Travel which became Saluki travel.
He traveled to over 100 countries and made friends wherever he went.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 28, 2013 at the First Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg.
Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 25, 2013, at Reed Funeral Chapel in Harrisburg. Masonic rites will be conducted by the Harrisburg Masonic Lodge No. 325 at 7 p.m.
There will be a candlelight memorial service for Mackie Nicholes at 9 p.m. Wednesday in front of the restaurant at 502 East Poplar St., Figg said.