ForeverMissed
This memorial website was created in loving memory of Nick Lee, humanist and humanitarian.  While he is greatly missed, he remains forever present in our hearts and minds.  Through us, his influence, mentorship, and advocacy will continue to bear fruit long into the future.

We welcome you to share your memories of Nick - leave a tribute below, upload photos or videos in the gallery, or share your favorite Nick story.  You will find his full obituary at the Life tab above, as well as selected excerpts from his memoirs.

The background music was selected by Nick himself, and includes Leroy Anderson's "Forgotten Dreams", the U.S. Navy Hymn, and his beloved "Trout Quintet" by Schubert.

Donations in his memory may be made to: 
Posted by Katherine Palmer on May 26, 2022
I miss the brother I got to know in these later years. Discovering how similar we were even though we had led very different lives. I remember with such pride (and envy) the boy I knew growing up.
That Nick was an artist, thespian, musician, and writer. Some memory snapshots: Nick playing the piano with boys from the neighbourhood gathered around singing. In the lead role of Daniel Webster and the Devil in high school and playing Falstaff in college. And always in a marching band; the FOE (Eagles), high school, university, playing different brass.
AND....he got he good hair!
Love you, brother.
Posted by Kimber Harvey on September 15, 2021
Nick was the first in the Howell family to accept me as his relative. I'd hired a private detective to find my family and he found Nick. Nick was welcoming and kind. He was so knowledgeable about the Howell family tree and easily shared that knowledge. He taught me about my long lost family, shared multiple pictures, introduced me to his family, and invited me to a real family reunion. He told me stories about my father and put me in touch with my half brother Brad. There was so much more I hoped to learn from him, more time I'd hoped to spend with him, but time got away from us both. I will miss you cousin.
Posted by Vibeke Lee on September 12, 2021
He had me with the cookies. It was our second date and he brought me, not flowers, but home baked oatmeal cookies he had stayed up late to produce. And for 18 years he continued to surprise me with simple gestures of love and respect, in his quiet, modest, genuine way. He was unselfish and generous in his love, always.  I cannot even begin to describe the amount of joy he gave me during our 18 years together, or the tremendous vacuum he leaves behind. 

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Katherine Palmer on May 26, 2022
I miss the brother I got to know in these later years. Discovering how similar we were even though we had led very different lives. I remember with such pride (and envy) the boy I knew growing up.
That Nick was an artist, thespian, musician, and writer. Some memory snapshots: Nick playing the piano with boys from the neighbourhood gathered around singing. In the lead role of Daniel Webster and the Devil in high school and playing Falstaff in college. And always in a marching band; the FOE (Eagles), high school, university, playing different brass.
AND....he got he good hair!
Love you, brother.
Posted by Kimber Harvey on September 15, 2021
Nick was the first in the Howell family to accept me as his relative. I'd hired a private detective to find my family and he found Nick. Nick was welcoming and kind. He was so knowledgeable about the Howell family tree and easily shared that knowledge. He taught me about my long lost family, shared multiple pictures, introduced me to his family, and invited me to a real family reunion. He told me stories about my father and put me in touch with my half brother Brad. There was so much more I hoped to learn from him, more time I'd hoped to spend with him, but time got away from us both. I will miss you cousin.
Posted by Vibeke Lee on September 12, 2021
He had me with the cookies. It was our second date and he brought me, not flowers, but home baked oatmeal cookies he had stayed up late to produce. And for 18 years he continued to surprise me with simple gestures of love and respect, in his quiet, modest, genuine way. He was unselfish and generous in his love, always.  I cannot even begin to describe the amount of joy he gave me during our 18 years together, or the tremendous vacuum he leaves behind. 
his Life

Obituary for Richard Allen (Nick) Lee, Humanist and Humanitarian

Richard Allen “Nick” Lee, age 84, died on May 27, 2021 from myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of blood cancer.  He is survived by his wife, Vibeke Mendonca Lee, his first wife, Charleen Lee, his two children, Shannon and Derek Lee, his sister, Katherine Palmer, his niece and nephew, Erin and D’Arcy Palmer, his step-daughters, Christine Smith-Atkins and Laurie Malchow, and his granddaughters, Zoe and Danielle Smith.
Nick was born in Portland, Oregon on May 25, 1937 to parents Lila and Elmer Lee.  He graduated from Marshfield High in Coos Bay in 1955 and enrolled in the University of Oregon, where he graduated with a degree in Music Education in 1961 after a two-year hiatus to serve in the Navy.  He would later earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, Sacramento in 1994, at the age of 59.
Nick began his professional life as a Management Trainee, first for the Insurance Company of North America (INA), in 1962, and then with General Electric Credit Corporation in 1963, where he moved up the ranks to Branch Manager in Reno, NV.  In 1968, Nick took the opportunity to work for the Federal Government, where he spent the bulk of his professional life as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense in Personnel Management.  His duty stations included the Presidio in San Francisco, Honolulu, Japan, Washington D.C., Germany, and Sacramento California.  Nick spent the final 15 years of his federal employment conducting investigations of complaints of employment discrimination filed by Federal employees.  He continued this work after his retirement, first as an independent consultant, then finally for JDG Associates in Boerne, TX.
Nick married his first wife, Charleen, on October 2, 1965 in Carmel, CA.  His daughter, Shannon, was born in 1966 in Reno, and his son, Derek, in 1970 in San Rafael, CA.  Nick valued family time, and was always planning a variety of adventures – including several cross-country car trips, viewing the 1976 Bicentennial fireworks next to the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., and attending many concerts and international folk festivals.  After his divorce in 2000, Nick moved to San Antonio to begin the next chapter of his life.  There, he met Vibeke Mendonca, and they married on December 23, 2006 in Negril, Jamaica.
It was in San Antonio that Nick was able to act upon his life-long goal of making a difference in his community.  As the President of the Wildwood Residents Association, he spearheaded the revitalization of his neighborhood, as he developed a solid volunteer base and organized neighborhood events and monthly newsletters.  Under his leadership, the neighborhood won a National Night Out award, and Nick remained active and served as a mentor for his successors.  Nick was appointed by then-mayor Phil Hardberger to serve on the 2010 Complete Count Census Commission, and also served on the San Antonio Civil Service Commission for more than a decade. 
Nick was a passionate advocate for human rights, and he drove to Austin numerous times to testify before the State Legislature to promote healthcare and education issues, as well as campaign finance reform as a leader of Clean Elections Texas..  Nick was also instrumental in expanding awareness and activity within the Secular community.  He assumed leadership of FACT, the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas, shortly after moving to San Antonio and served on the board of the San Antonio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  
Nick was elected  president of Atheist Alliance International  and later presided over the division  of this organization into two separate entities, creating Atheist Alliance America.  He was also a central force in the establishment  of the annual Texas Freethought Convention.  In all of his work for a more secular society, he was always respectful of the First Amendment intent regarding religious freedom, and he maintained close relationships with mainstream clergy.  In September 2018, with support from the religious community, he offered the first ever secular invocation at the opening meeting of the San Antonio City Council.  
Nick requested that any celebration of life gatherings be accompanied by a good wine selection and the playing of his beloved Trout Quintet by Schubert.  Donations in his memory may be made to Americans United, the Texas Freedom Network, and Doctors Without Borders. 

On behalf of all residents, a historic moment (San Antonio Express, July 14, 2021)

by Eric Lane

On May 26, Nick Lee, past president of the Atheist Alliance International, past president of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas and a board member of the San Antonio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State for nearly a decade, died. You may not have heard his name before, but he played a critical role in broadening the consciousness, diversity and culture of San Antonio and beyond.

The passing of a life leaves a cavernous hole — but, over time, what remains is the essence of that person’s being, the memories and the ripples of change they left behind.

Nick represented the freethinker, atheist and secular humanist community with such dignity and diplomacy that he counted numerous religious leaders as his friends. He was a member of the Americans United Religious Outreach Committee, and clergy would often ask him to speak to their students or participate in forums or discussions. With sage reason and common sense, he transcended the physical world guided by such a profound love for humanity that anyone who met him left more enlightened and, yes, more civilized.

What Nick represented was the ideal of the founders and what it means to be an American. He respected each person’s right to believe or not believe what their conscience dictated. And he expected the same in return.

In that spirit, on Sept. 13, 2018, about 9:15 a.m. in the City Council chambers — fittingly during the celebration of the 300th anniversary of San Antonio’s founding — a historic event took place.

City Council was called to order. Nick was introduced by Councilwoman Ana Sandoval, who reminded the audience that the council had heard invocations from religious leaders of various faith traditions but not from those who do not belong to any religion or don’t believe in any god. Yet that population makes up almost a quarter of the city’s residents, pays taxes, and should be recognized and treated like all other citizens.

Nick approached the podium. The audience stood silently, respectfully, some with heads bowed. For the first time in the history of the city, a secular humanist delivered the invocation. The oceans did not part. No one was smitten. The sun set and rose again the next day.

In attendance were religious leaders from the community who stood in support. What follows is Nick’s secular invocation filled with gratitude and inclusion:

“Mayor, council members: This morning I do not ask you to bow your heads in prayer. Rather, I draw your attention to the citizens who are gathered here today to do business with the city. They come from different economic circumstances and ethnic backgrounds. Yet they all hope to receive from you an equitable hearing of their concerns.

“And beyond this room, I ask you to remember all 1.5 million people whom you are collectively pledged to serve. Consider the diversity of cultures, economic interests and religious backgrounds which are represented in this community. In terms of religion, this includes not only the many varieties of Christians but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists and others. At this point, I draw your attention to the religious leaders who are gathered here this morning in support of this secular invocation.

“These citizens of San Antonio look to each of you to apply wisdom, integrity and rational thinking to the affairs of the city, and to treat all fairly and without favor. As a secular humanist, I believe that we have the power within ourselves to solve life’s problems and challenges through logic, reason, compassion and compromise. As our elected representatives, we trust your decisions today will be based on the common good and with an eye to their impact on all citizens and future generations.

“On behalf of the many atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists who live and work in this community and contribute to its prosperity, I thank you for this opportunity to present what I believe to be the first secular invocation in the 300-year history of the city of San Antonio. I hope it will not be the last. Thank you.”

Eric Lane serves as president of the San Antonio Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Where I Live: Wildwood (San Antonio Express, September 14, 2019)

The ‘Where I Live’ series aims to showcase our beautiful city by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods.  Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special.

When I relocated from Sacramento in 2003, recently single, I began looking for an apartment to rent.  I was astounded to discover Texas had relatively low property values compared to California.  That convinced me it was feasible for me to buy a house.

I explored several neighborhoods around San Antonio.  Three things attracted me to Wildwood One: the proximity to my (then) job on Boerne Stage Road, that it is a pipestem neighborhood (more on that later), and I took a fancy to a particular house in Wildwood.

Situated off Bandera Road just north of Leon Valley, the neighborhood was developed in the mid 1970s as affordable housing for workers at Kelly Field.  Many current residents were the original buyers.  By comparison with average house values in San Antonio, it is still an affordable neighborhood with starter homes for young families.

Out of an exaggerated sense of my handyman abilities, I bought a distressed house that backs against a green space at the very edge of the neighborhood.  That green space is now a part of Leon Creek Greenway Trail, which is accessible from our backyard.  Soon after, I met my wife, Vibeke, and together we began to rehabilitate the house and landscaping.

With a combination of do-it-yourself projects and professional help, all major systems and kitchen appliances have been replaced, windows modernized, and wood flooring laid.  Most recently, we brought in a contractor to tear out a load-bearing wall to combine two rooms for an open floor plan to increase natural lighting, and, later, to modernize the guest bathroom.  We have transformed a house that was frozen in time in the mid-‘70s to an open, comfortable home.

Outdoors, the backyard was a blank slate.  Fortunately, Vibeke is an avid gardener, and she quickly devised a landscaping plan that has evolved over the past sixteen years.  I kept pushing for exotic plants, but after many failures, we have agreed to settle for Texas-hardy vegetation.  A huge deck and covered patio have been added, improving opportunities for outdoor entertaining.

We love the fact we are surrounded by greenery, and Vibeke enjoys the parade of wildlife that creeps into our back yard from the green space after dark, including rabbits, raccoons, porcupines, opossum, armadillos, turtles, and skunks (oh my!).  Occasionally, a deer will jump the fence.  It’s a regular Animal Planet back there!

Likewise, many of the 420 houses in the neighborhood have been remodeled and upgraded from their original design, and there has been some infill of new houses, so the neighborhood is still developing and evolving.  Over the past few years, that has drawn a steady influx of younger families with children.

The neighborhood is tied together by the Wildwood Residents Association (WRA), a volunteer group open to homeowners and renters alike.  The association has been fortunate to have had a series of effective leaders and a full slate of active Street Captains who help distribute the newsletter.  WRA holds several activities throughout the year, including coordinated yard sales and a Christmas parade, and has won honors for its Neighborhood Night Out.  We have also been fully supported by our SAAFE officers and City Council member.

Situated halfway between Loops 410 and 1604, we have access in either direction to shopping and dining options.  Just on the other side of Bandera Road you can find an H-E-B, Nani Falcone Community Park, and the Maury Maverick Public Library.  Just up the road a piece is O.P. Schnabel Park.

Speaking of Bandera Road, I must confess traffic can be a problem during commuting hours.  Since it is Texas State Highway 16, any plans for improvement require coordination among many different governmental bodies, including the City of Leon Valley.  Those plans and discussions are already underway, with opportunity for public input.  Given time and money, we can solve that problem, too.
After a 35-year career working for the federal government and living in five states and two foreign countries, I have now lived in San Antonio and Wildwood the longest of any place in my life.  That has allowed me to get involved in the local community for the first time, first as president of the WRA, and then as an appointee to two City commissions.  I have served on the Municipal Civil Service Commission for a dozen years or so, hearing appeals from City employees of disciplinary actions.  That has been very satisfying because it is a continuation of the kind of human resources work I did during my career.

Being a few years younger, Vibeke retired later than I, after a career as a licensed clinical social worker.  She has been the principal inspiration for many of the changes we have made in the house and yard, in addition to her passionate involvement in many social issues.
Wildwood One is not a historic neighborhood, nor is it an exclusive neighborhood, but we enjoy the hike-and-bike trail right outside our back gate and the backyard wildlife.  After all the changes, this house and this neighborhood suits us just fine, and we have come to the decision that this will be our forever home.
See this article online, with additional photos here.
Recent stories

"I assure you: I'm a very early riser!"

Shared by Brigitta D'Amato on September 10, 2021
Our longtime friend and colleague, Shannon Lee, introduced us to her father and we liked "Captain Lee" immediately. To our delight, it was mutual and the Captain agreed to participate in one of our residential Worth-Shops in the coastal mountains of Mendocino.
      Upon arrival, he informed us that he had a solid 50-year habit of waking up at 5.00 am for his first cup of coffee and expressed his hope that this would not disturb anyone. I pointed out that on our magic mountain, behaviour patterns (even 50 year old ones) sometimes just evaporated  -  together with long held faulty belief systems.
      "I assure you: I'm a very early riser - always up at 5.00 am no matter what or where!"
he answered.
      The following morning at 8.00 am, all participants were having their breakfast   ---
but no sign of Captain Lee.
      I went to his cottage, knocked on the door and gently announced the time. A bleary eyed Nick staggered to the door and promptly accused me of trying to play a trick on him!
But every clock on the mountain and even his own watch declared me utterly innocent.
That's when the Captain admitted to having totally surprised himself and was therefore
 opening up to more such surprises and maybe some changes in his habitual thinking.
      Nick Lee had lived through many decades and was clearly set in his ways, but his mental flexibility and willingness to experience new paradigms became an inspiration to us all.

Wherever you are, dear Captain Lee, we salute you with these words:

"O Captain Lee! my Captain! your fearful trip is done,
Your ship has weather'd every rack, the prize you sought is won!"

With love and admiration from Brigitta and George D'Amato
"Solitude" in Philo, Sept. 10th 2021

Influences

Shared by Joyce Townsend on September 8, 2021
Nick was one of those people that influenced others without even trying. I greatly regret not letting him know what a quiet impact he had on me. 
Abolishment of the death penalty has always been a vital concern. The overload of organized religious groups within assorted abolishment groups was a huge headache. I had no idea how to work within the groups while not being subjected to numerous theories that a respect for life could only be derived from their respective gods. Over time, I watched Nick patiently and compassionately work with people that differed strongly from him. Who knew my bull in a China shop technique wasn’t always the way?! I learned a methodology from Nick and saw how I could work for change without letting the bastards wear me down. I will always remember and appreciate his demeanor.