Dr. David Nichols, the award-winning physician from Virginia's Northern Neck who inspired many by selflessly providing health care for the residents of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, died today.

White Stone Family Practice, the thriving practice Nichols built in the Lancaster County community of White Stone, confirmed that Nichols, 62, died this morning at his home, surrounded by family, after battling cancer.

Dr. David NicholsHis death came less than four months after myriad dignitaries flew to Tangier to join the island's 525 residents for the dedication of a $1.4 million, state-of-the-art health center that replaced a cramped, dilapidated clinic that had served the island for more than 50 years.

The new facility was christened the David B. Nichols Health Center, in honor of the gentle, bespectacled physician who made a habit of flying from White Stone to the island on his day off.

Jimmie Carter, the Northern Neck developer and friend and patient of Nichols’ who spearheaded the public-private partnership that built the center and established a foundation that will help ensure high-quality health care for islanders for years to come, said in an e-mail today that Nichols passed away at about 6:30 a.m.

Carter said Nichols' widow, Dianne, "said that it was fitting for David to leave us early on a Thursday because that is when he always left for Tangier."

So firm was Nichols' commitment to helping the people of Tangier that he had a helipad built behind White Stone Family Practice and earned his pilot's license to make it easier for him to fly out to the island.

The people he served for 31 years tried to pay him back by turning out en masse at the Aug. 29 dedication of the Tangier clinic, a ceremony that also included Gov. Bob McDonnell and Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-1st, who represents the island in Washington.

Representatives of Staff Care, the organization that chose Nichols as “Country Doctor of the Year” in 2006, came from Texas to present Nichols with its first “Country Doctor of the Decade” award.

An emotional Nichols told the crowd he planned to have his ashes buried beside the clinic.

“While I will leave you in body,” Nichols told the gathering, his eyes red and his voice catching, “I will never leave you in spirit.”

Published: December 30, 2010