FLORENCE — Nicki Graham died October 31, 2020.
Nicki Graham was born in Sayre, Alabama in 1930. Her parents, Eleanor and Ralph Smith, were originally from England and the family subsequently settled in Florence. Nicki graduated from Coffee High School and went on to graduate from Florence State College. Ethel Nicholson Smith, as she was then known, married Jones Raymond Graham, a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1951. Together they embarked on a 27 year journey around the world, stationed in France, Germany and the United States.
After moving back to Florence in the mid 1970’s, Nicki taught English and Humanites at the former Bradshaw High School before obtaining a Master’s Degree in Counseling from University of North Alabama. She then became a licensed professional counselor at the former Bradshaw High School for 17 of her 32 years in education. Nicki went on to found Renaissance Counseling Services, a private practice, in 2004. Nicki’s special focus was helping students find the right college, university or further education and often helping them to obtain scholarships. Working with young people was one of her greatest joys, so many she helped stayed in touch over the years and are forever grateful for her guidance. Nicki served as state president of the Alabama School Counselor Association in 1995.
Nicki was a tireless and adventurous world traveller. She organized many annual trips to Europe and Asia over the years for groups and shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for travel, new sights and culture. Nicki brought a group to China the first year it opened to tourists in the late 1980’s. Always intrepid, even into her later years, Nicki finally made it to Egypt and was photographed on the back of a camel!
Nicki was a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church. She was an active member of Rotary Club of Florence and many other garden, book and study clubs. Nicki was also an accomplished pianist and loved music. She taught piano for many years. Nicki had so many passionate interests, especially in culture and the arts. Her enthusiasm was an inspiration to many to get out there and discover the world.
Nicki is survived by her daughter, Lesley Cooke and husband, Christopher Cooke; and her son, Scott Graham and wife, Elizabeth Graham. Nini, as she was known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is also survived by grandchildren, Graham Cooke and wife, Caroline Cooke, Nicholas Cooke and Caroline Cooke, all of London, England, and by Jones Graham, his wife, Katie, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lucy Graham of Fairfax, Virginia and Elizabeth “Nicki” Graham of Birmingham, Alabama. Great-grandchildren, Isabella Cooke, Louis Cooke and Sophia Cooke, all of London, England.