James Nitsche, 81: Former Marine became Portland district fire chief

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PORTLAND — James Nitsche, 81, a longtime resident of Hicks Street, died March 23 at the Barron Center.

He was born Oct. 31, 1933, in Buffalo, New York, a son of Joseph and Eleanor (Harris) Nitsche.

In 1951, during the Korean War, James enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. While assigned to duty in Washington, D.C., he fell in love with Anita Casale, a Marine from Portland.

He and Anita later married, and after discharge, settled in Portland. There, Nitsche initially worked at American Can Co. and Cushman Bakery.

In 1955, he entered the Portland Fire Department, and over a 21-year-career rose from the rank of private to district chief. Like many “firemen,” as they were then known, Nitsche often worked a second job. He was a meticulous house painter, and after his retirement from the PFD, worked as a bookkeeper for a friend’s small business.

Nitsche’s most recent employment was as an operations and warehouse manager for the former J.E. Goold Pharmaceutical Co. in Portland. Wherever he was employed, Nitsche gained the respect of coworkers as a gentleman and a leader.

He was physically active for his entire life, whether through his work, tending his lawn, or participating in sports. Nitsche played for the PFD’s basketball and softball teams and was a skillful bowler, playing in the 10-pin leagues at Northgate Lanes. He was also an avid golfer and longtime member of Riverside Municipal Golf Course, where he competed and made many friendships.

Although sometimes stoic, Nitsche greatly enjoyed spending time with his wife of more than 50 years, his family and many friends. He especially loved watching his grandchildren participate in their activities.

The family would like to thank the BC2 staff at the Barron Center who gave Nitsche care and comfort throughout his time there.

He was predeceased by his wife, Anita N. (Casale) Nitsche, and a brother, Richard Nitsche.

He is survived by a son, Joseph Nitsche and wife, Maryellen, of South Portland; a daughter, Kimberly (Nitsche) Kapothanasis and husband, Christo, of Westbrook; and grandchildren, Rachel Nitsche, of Washington, D.C., Joellen Gallant, of Windham, Christie C. Kapothanasis, of Philadelphia, Constantine (Costa) C. Kapothanasis, of Columbia, Maryland, and James C. Kapothanasis, of Westbrook. Nitsche is also survived by a niece, Debra; nephews, Richard and John; and numerous relatives in the Buffalo and Portland areas.

Visiting hours were scheduled for Tuesday, from 5-8 p.m., at Jones-Rich-Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St., Portland, with a memorial service there Wednesday at 10 a.m. Burial with military honors was to follow at Calvary Cemetery, South Portland.

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