Recently twins John Nicklin and Jane “Nicki” Moss celebrated their 90th birthdays in Marlboro.
“I really don’t feel much different than I did when I was 70,” John said, “except my legs are bad and I can’t walk very good.”
John was a fruit farmer his entire life, recalling that he grew apples, grapes, currants, gooseberries, strawberries and even tomatoes. He said his father, grandfather and his great-grandfathers were also farmers. He had ancestors who were French Huguenots who settled in New Rochelle in Westchester County and later moved north to Plattekill. Eventually the family bought a farm off of Mt. Zion Road in Marlboro around the mid 1800s.
Nicklin said he followed in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed the work.
“It’s the only thing I knew and I stuck with it,” he said.
John retired 20 years ago and sold about 70 acres to his neighbor Charles Weed and kept some acreage to build a house.
Charles son John said Mr. Nicklin has been a great friend and has helped him over the years after selling 70 aces to his family.
“You can’t find a more honest guy than John Nicklin. He is a real straight talker; if he tells you it’s going to rain, you go buy a raincoat,” he laughed. “When John had the land it was mostly grapes and then apples and other fruits but now we have a kind of pick your own tourist retail place.”
John’s daughter Allison traveled from Colorado and worked tirelessly to make sure it would be a very special birthday celebration for her father.
“All of you have enriched our lives, his life and I know he has touched yours,” she told the gathered crowd. “I look at Dad as being a very unassuming, whole-hearted, quiet man but despite his reserve, he has spoken volumes in our community. Thank you for being here and we love you all.”
Pastor Laurie A. McNeill, of the First Presbyterian Church of Marlboro, offered a prayer.
“Ninety years ago there was not just one baby that cried out with new life but there were two, so we give you thanks dear God that Jane and John entered this world and we have been the better for it,” she said. “We’re grateful for the way he prospered on this mountain and how one season after another was a harvest of abundance. For a long life that was shared, we praise you and we look forward to the dawn and the beginning of yet of another year for John; may it go well. Amen.”
Allison summed up her father’s life.
“If I have one word for my Dad it’s resiliency and the twists and turns of the farming industry, if it was a good year or a bad year, we [children] never knew the difference,” she said, calling farming, “a labor of love and you have to love what you do to be in that industry.”
Allison said she is very proud of her farming roots in Marlboro, adding, “I had a very charmed life.” She pointed out that her father invented the hybrid Redcort apple [aka the Nicklin], a combination of a Red Delicious and Cortland that caught the attention of Hill Top Nurseries in Michigan, one of the largest tree farm fabricators. He was also the first person in New York State to grow a seedless grape that caught the attention of growers in France who came to Marlboro to observe and set up weather stations all over the property, “it was kind of like a little science experiment.”
The Joe North Quartet performed a wide variety of jazz standards, post 1950. Joe North performed on sax, Buddy Griffith on upright bass, Ryan Cerullo on piano and Ryan O’Dell on drums and all are local music teachers in the area. North said performing for Mr. Nicklin’s 90th birthday, “is inspiring, especially to have so many friends and family come out in support. It’s really a nice thing.”
In a subsequent interview, John Nicklin said, “I give my daughter all kinds of credit for a party like that; I sure didn’t expect it. I think it turned out good.” As the party plans moved forward, Carol said it was not easy keeping it a secret from her husband.
“I think we are going to be riding high for about a month because we’ve been looking at pictures that our daughter had posted on the wall,” she said. “It was great turnout.”
John’s twin Jane “Nicki” Moss lives in Maryland and was unable to travel north to the party. She teases her bother, saying he is older, if only by minutes, even though their parents never disclosed who was born first.
Jane said at a certain point the etiquette of not asking a woman her age goes out the window.
“When you reach 90 it doesn’t matter; you can say anything, can do anything and act anyway you want, right?” she said.
Jane grew up on the farm in Marlboro and went off to college in Tennessee, majoring in Education. Afterwards she was granted a Ford Foundation Fellowship to Cornell where she earned a Master’s degree. She then moved to La Mesa, California near San Diego to teach and soon met Robert Moss. The two were married in 1957.
“He was in the Navy and I became a Navy wife and we traveled half-way around the world and to every state but two,” she said. They lived in California for a decade, then spent 3 years in the Philippines and eventually returned east to Washington D.C. where her husband served as a Supervisor of Diving and Salvage for the Navy. In retirement the couple moved yet again, but this time back home to Marlboro where they spent 30 years farming.
Robert passed away 10 years ago, at the age of 79. He and Jane were married for 53 years.
Jane said she always enjoyed her brother’s company and her husband Robert and John also, “got along very well. They were good friends.” She sold the farm to Allison and now resides in Virginia with her daughter, Jennis.