Nick Corey was a true cowboy

Nick Corey died July 2, at age of 83. According to his wife, he had suffered with dementia in the past few months, but died of heart failure.

Coleta Corey remembers her husband, Nick, as kind, generous and big-hearted.

But first and foremost, he was a cowboy.

“He wouldn’t go anywhere without his cowboy hat on the top of his ahead,” she said. “I’m sure he’s still wearing it in Heaven.”

Nick Corey died July 2, at age of 83. According to his wife, he had suffered with dementia in the past few months, but died of heart failure.

Nick and Coleta are known in Kitsap County for starting “Corey’s Day on The Farm,” an annual event that allows special needs children the opportunity to experience farm life, including petting animals, riding in the hay wagon, and lassoing wooden horses.

When the event first began in 1968, the Coreys hosted it on their farm, outside of Silverdale. But as it grew, the event was moved to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds where it is held each June.

Coleta recalled one of the early years of Corey’s Day on The Farm.

“Nick would go to the school and help load the kids on the school bus and ride it back here to the farm with the kids,” she said. “He’d tell me about how the kids were just so excited they could’t stop talking. Then, after the day was over, he’d help load the kids up and ride the bus back to the school. He said the ride back was quiet because the kids were all worn out.

“He got such a kick out of those kids.”

Coleta and Nick met in Nebraska, where they both grew up.

She was born in Grant and he was born in Wauneta. They met in Sutherland, Neb., when she was a telephone switchboard operator.

“He would come in and talk to me while I was working the switchboard,“ she said. “He was kind of shy and I think he just needed somebody to talk to.”

By 1960, they were married and had three boys, Randy, Scott and Daniel. Nick was working as a tree trimmer, but the family was having a hard time. He went to work for the county road department, but it was only a temporary job. There was another baby on the way.

“Sometimes he’d work all summer just to have the money to pay for heat in the winter,” Coleta said.

Nick’s brother, Don, was living in Kitsap County and working as a police officer. He told Nick to come to Washington and he would help get him a job.

The family packed up and moved west.

“We drove straight through,“ Coleta said. “At that time Colen was only six weeks old.“

Once they got to Washington, Nick went to work for the city of Bremerton street department, where he worked for 21 years.

“We couldn’t believe he got a job so fast, and that it was one that was going to last,“ Coleta said.

They had a fifth son, Clint. And, in 1968, started Corey’s Day on The Farm.

It began after their son, Dan, who had special needs, pleaded to take puppies to school for “show-and-tell,” Coleta said. Once she saw how other special needs children loved being around animals, she knew it was something they had to do more of. On the way home, she told her husband “we should invite them all out to the farm so they can experience what it’s like to be around all the animals.”

The first year, they had 26 children. This past June, they hosted more than 1,000.

The kids always called Nick “cowboy.”

“For a lot of them, he’s the only cowboy they’d ever seen,” she said.

And that carried on throughout his life.

“We were at Costco one day and there was a kid riding in a grocery cart,” Coleta said. “This kid stuck out his hand and said ‘cowboy.’ Everywhere we went, kids would call him ‘cowboy.’ ”

Nick and Coleta were married 58 years and Coleta considers Nick to be the “kindest person I ever met.”

“He was kind to everybody,” she said. “If someone was on the street that he didn’t know, but needed help, he’d help them. He was so kind and generous and he had such a big heart — especially where kids were concerned.”

The family is having private services today. There will be a public celebration of Nick’s life at 2 p.m. July 12, at Presidents Hall at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

All of their sons will be at the services. Scott and Colen live near the family farm. Dan lives with his mother. Randy lives in Las Vegas and Clint lives in Colorado.

Coleta said Corey’s Day on The Farm will continue, despite her husband’s death.

“He was very proud of the day on the farm,” she said. “If we didn’t keep it going, I think he’d come back down here and harangue us all.”