Donald Herbert Nikolaus, Attorney and Corporate & Community Leader | obituaries


Donald Herbert Nikolaus, 79, of Silver Spring, PA, passed away on Tuesday morning, February 1, 2022 after a long illness at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.

Don was born on April 17, 1942 in Columbia, PA, the youngest son of Paul Joseph and Alma Marie (Baker) Nicholas.

He attended Holy Trinity Catholic School (now known as Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School) and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School in 1960. Don then attended Villanova University and graduated from the Commerce and Finance School in 1964. He was active in many college organizations such as the Blue Key Society, the Delta Pi MU Fraternity, and the Economist Society.

After acceptance under the direction of attorney Wilson Bucher (later President Lancaster County Judge), Don entered the Villanova School of Law where he served as a resident assistant at the undergraduate school, graduating with a juris doctor degree in 1967 and passing the state bar exam this year. In January 1968 he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Lancaster County Bar. After law school, Don practiced law under the direction of Attorney Wilson Bucher, his preceptor. After his tenure with the Bucher law firm, Don joined the law firm of Columbia attorney William Blank. In 1968, Colonel Blank hired Don to provide legal counsel to the Columbia Borough School District, an account still held today by the law firm of Nikolaus & Hohe Nadel.

In April 1972, Don joined forces with John P. Hohe Nadel, a fellow Colombian and Villanova Law School graduate, to form the law firm of Nikolaus & Hohe Nadel. The firm has grown over the years with twenty-three (23) attorneys in four (4) locations serving the greater Lancaster County area. Don continued to practice law until his recent death and had an astonishing legal career specializing in corporate, probate and municipal law.

After an introduction to J. Edward Charles, President and CEO of Donegal Mutual Insurance Co., Don was appointed the youngest member of Donegal’s Board of Directors in 1972 at the age of 30. Following the death of Mr Charles, Don was elected President and CEO , a position he held until 2018. He also served as President, CEO and Director of Donegal Group, Inc. from 1986 to 2016. Don inherited a small nationwide insurance company that originally started providing fire and casualty insurance to farmers and grew into a national company. Through his entrepreneurial acumen and foresight, the company began to expand, acquiring small similar insurance providers in the US and soon Donegal was recognized as a significant part of the insurance industry. Under his leadership and keen sixth business acumen, Donegal entered the banking services industry, forming Province Bank and purchasing the former Union National Mount Joy Bank. Donegal also expanded into the title insurance business with the purchase of Conestoga Title Insurance Co., an acquisition he pursued for many years. At the time of his death he was Chairman of Donegal Mutual Insurance Co. and Chairman of Conestoga Title Insurance Co. and has a fifty (50) year career in that industry. He also served as past chairman of the Pennsylvania Insurance Association.

Additionally, Don became involved with Columbia Water Co., one of the oldest privately owned public water companies in the United States. He served as President of the Company and used his gifted business logic to lead an expansion program for the water company, acquiring the former Marietta Water Gravity Co. and expanding service territory to include the boroughs of Columbia, Marietta and Mountville and four (4) townships in Lancaster and York counties . The pumping and filtration plant at Columbia was expanded and upgraded, a project Don oversaw and gave him immense sense of accomplishment.

Don’s church affiliations were broad and varied. His most important was the Columbia Catholic Housing for the Elderly. He took the original idea presented to him by the late Mary Loreto, a Columbia legend, and with the late Msgr. Rudolf Fuhr developed the two (2) high rise residential buildings in Columbia known as Trinity House and St. Peter’s Apartments and offer high-quality apartments for seniors. He was instrumental in founding the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and served as a director for many years. Don has served as a director of many community organizations including the Columbia Healthcare Foundation, the Economic Development Corp. of Lancaster Co., the Lancaster Alliance, St. Anne’s Retirement Community and past President of the Columbia Rotary Club.

Don was a life member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Columbia, the Holy Name of Jesus Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and served as a member of the Harrisburg Parish and Diocese Finance Committee. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Columbia Council 2294, and the Santa Maria General Assembly Fourth Degree.

Don considered the greatest honor bestowed upon him as his invitation to become a member of the Equestrian Order of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a Catholic order founded in 1099 AD and which has existed uninterruptedly ever since. He was ordained at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, brother Paul J. Nicholas, Jr., and many beloved aunts and uncles. He is survived by wife Elizabeth (Rankin), daughters Lauren Zink of Lancaster, PA, Anne Nikolaus of Haverford, PA and son Matthew Nikolaus of Silver Spring, PA, grandson Tyler Zink, granddaughters Lindsay and Kate Zink, all of Lancaster , PA and Victor Nikolaus-Pereira of Haverford, PA. He is also survived by brother Gerald Nikolaus, sisters-in-law Lucretia Nikolaus and Margaret Nikolaus Bransby, all from Columbia, PA; Mary Stadden and Julie Fulmer of Lancaster, PA and brothers-in-law Richard Rankin of Fairfax, VA and John Rankin of Salisbury, MD. In addition, his mother-in-law Lucy Lolli Rankin survives.

A Christian funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 12, 2022 at 11:00 am at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 409 Cherry St., Columbia, PA with Fr. Stephen Kelley as celebrant. There is no public viewing.

In lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor Donald may do so by making a contribution to Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School, 404 Cherry St., Columbia, PA 17512 Holy Trinity Church, 409 Cherry St., Columbia, PA 17512 to arrive there by 9:30 am on Saturday, February 12, 2022. Personal handwritten condolences are greatly appreciated and may be mailed to the Clyde W. Kraft Funeral Home. 519 Walnut St., PO Box 231, Columbia, PA 17512.

The live stream of the funeral mass can be viewed at

Arrangements of the Clyde W. Kraft Funeral Home, Inc., Columbia/Landisville.


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