Cynthia Marie Harrington (Tabbert) Nicholson, age 89, passed away Friday, July 17, 2020, peacefully in her home.
Cynthia was born September 21, 1930, in Hammond, IN, to Herbert Percival Harrington and Martha Ellen Horne Harrington, both originally from Mitchell County, Beloit, KS. She graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1948, where she sang in the MCHS Chorus, took 4 years of Latin, and won the Latin prize her senior year. Cynthia served as Senior Class Secretary, was a member of the National Honor Society, and won a Merit Scholarship to IU.
Cynthia’s mother taught her the rudiments of piano before she allowed her daughter to learn the violin; Cynthia played her mother’s violin throughout her school years including in the Muncie Community Orchestra. She later took lessons from Ferdinand Schaefer, Founder of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Ball State University. Cynthia also played for one year in the IU Philharmonic Orchestra in Bloomington, IN.
Cynthia graduated from Indiana University in 1952 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She was a member of Theta Sigma Phi and was a Life Member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. She married Don Alan Tabbert in 1952. They had 3 children together and were married for 30 years.
Cynthia was the Owner and manager of the Canary Café from 1982-1996 in downtown Indianapolis, and was an active member of the Downtown Indy Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association, and St. Joseph Neighborhood Association. She regularly served free dinners to the homeless population on Christmas, believing that a good hot meal and some lovingkindness would go a long way. Oftentimes, when hungry or penniless folks would stop by, she allowed them to help out in exchange for food. Her café was very favorably reviewed in Simon & Schuster’s “Interstate Gourmet”.
It was because of the Canary Café that Dr. Ray Nicholson was able to look her up in the phone book and contact her. At the time he re-entered her life, Cynthia owned not only the restaurant, but an off-site kitchen for catering, an apartment building of tenants that she managed, and her own home. She had a very busy and full life, but Ray Nicholson had been a friend during their IU days, and wanted to reconnect. They were married in June of 1997 and were inseparable afterwards until his passing in 2017. Cynthia relocated in Evansville and quickly acclimated to Doc’s busy schedule. She was an active member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Evansville where she read and taught Sunday school for several years, as well as the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA.; National Audubon Society; Indiana University Alumni Association, Evansville Newcomers’ Club (President 1999 and 2002); Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors (2002-2008); Vanderburgh Medical Alliance (Co-President 2009-2010); Advisory Board, Vanderburgh Co. Women’s Fund (2009); Advanced Master Gardener (2005); Master Naturalist ( Wesselman Woods Preserve); Better Investing (Treasurer, 2005-2008); Vanderburgh Community Foundation Advisory Board (2009); Tri-State Aquasize Classes (1999-2016) and Better Investing FPC.
Simply put, Cynthia cared more about people than about things. She and Doc had a very happy marriage, and fondly referred to their time together as the “Dessert Years”. Nick wanted her by his side always, and she was overheard saying that at night, even a piece of paper couldn’t fit between them, so closely did they cuddle. As his health challenges increased, Cynthia made her life mission to care for his needs and make his life happier and easier. Together they had taken the Master Gardener course, and created a beautiful garden next to their home which not only won awards and was featured in various publications, it was their pride and joy. Both Cynthia and Doc worked outside in the yard, weeding, until just days before their passing. For Cynthia, having a yard full of gorgeous flowers meant giving bouquets away, as many as possible, to uplift others. It was much more important to drop off a vase of blooms than leave an immaculate kitchen floor. Better to make food for a bereaved friend than to fuss with her hair. Cynthia was constantly thinking of others, doing for others, and enjoying her role as a doting and involved grandmother. She led by example, showing her family how to love God supremely, work hard, and tighten one’s belt when necessary. She lived a life that put other’s first, a life of service. She insisted that library due dates and tax deadlines matter, but bad hair days don’t. That remembering people’s birthdays is more important than remembering their mistakes, eating homegrown tomatoes in summer from the garden is more important than having a perfect manicure, and prayer is always more powerful than worry. That there is something heavenly about the shape of babies’ heads and that the best Christmas dessert is pink peppermint ice cream with dark Chocolate syrup. Cynthia believed firmly in hard work, laughter, and the value of family. She was blessed with the ability to forgive quickly and love all people, regardless of skin color or religion or whom they chose to love.
She was ahead of her time in many ways, such as offering espresso/cappuccino/café au lait at her restaurant long before Starbucks was a household word. She made tender, flaky piecrusts and became known for her baking skills. She loved to get her pans nice and shiny clean on the bottom and ironed men’s dress shirts flawlessly. She not only fed the birds and stocked feeders in her yard, she edited a book called “Enjoying Indiana Birds” in 1978, and went on bird walks every week for years, and was an expert at identifying many birds and their songs.
Cynthia’s hobbies further included ice-skating, swimming, reading, emailing grandchildren and talking her way out of speeding tickets. She even was a model in the VMA style show at age 75. She loved her family with great strength and weathered life’s disappointments with grace, including the unthinkable loss of her teenage son to suicide in the 1970’s. Cynthia had great empathy for others, and great grit and determination to get things done.
Cynthia is survived by her daughter, Paige (Tabbert) Davis, brother, Robert Harrington; grandchildren Chris Waggoner, Carrie Waggoner, Lili Westphal, Madison Cole and Morgan Cole; and two great-grandchildren.
Cynthia is preceeded in death by her parents; husband of 20 years Raymond Nicholson; daughter Linda Tabbert Westphal; and son, Chris Alan Tabbert.
A private memorial service was held by the family at home, surrounded by vases of Cynthia’s flowers.
Memorial Contributions may be made to: Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra at 600 Main Street, Evansville, IN 47708.
Arrangements are being handled by BOONE FUNERAL HOME, East Chapel-A Family Tradition Funeral home, 5330 Washington Avenue, Evansville, IN.
Condolences may be made to the family online at boonefuneralhome.net
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