Maria Freiin Nickles

maria nickles

November 29, 1937 ~ November 2, 2023

Resided in: Great Falls, Virginia

Maria Freiin Nickles, devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, passed away on November 2, 2023, in Great Falls, Virginia. She was born on November 29, 1937, in Göttingen, Germany, to Albrecht Freiherr Knigge and Louise Sophie Freifrau Knigge, (née Gräfin von Hardenberg). She shared 61 years of marriage with her beloved husband, Peter John Nickles.

Maria grew up on a farm in Bredenbeck, Germany with her five siblings, and was known for her creativity and adventurous spirit. Nature was her playground, and her adventures in the vast fields, woods, and orchards of her youth provided the grounding for her life and the inspiration for her artistic voice.

While living in Boston, Maria met Peter Nickles. Following a short courtship, they married on July 28, 1962, at her childhood farm in Germany. They settled in Great Falls, Virginia, where they would create a lifelong home.

As a mother, Maria was a pillar of support to her family. Whether it was manning the hotdog stand at a basketball game, scorekeeping at a Little League game, creating the perfect Halloween costume, or holding a horse before an event, you could always count on Maria.
She created a magical childhood for her children, nurturing their dreams, and turning their house into a loving home. And just like her own childhood home, Maria’s house was open to everyone. It was a warm place where magic and adventure lived, and where everyone loved Maria.
Maria loved life—riding horses, gardening, working with children, and finding hidden treasures at flea markets. But it was her kindness and welcoming spirit that made her who she was.

Maria was also a prolific and versatile artist. Her journey as an artist began at the Art Institute in Berlin. While she specialized in watercolor and pen-and-ink, her artistic passions extended to porcelain painting and the creation of elaborate gingerbread houses, some of which were displayed at the German Embassy and The Smithsonian Institution. Every Christmas, she hosted gingerbread parties for her grandchildren and shared her artistic creations with friends. Maria was also a gifted illustrator, and her whimsical images grace the pages of many children’s books.

An active member of the community, Maria loved her hometown friends, her German “Kaffeklatsch,” her China Painting group, and all the friends she made in Hawaii and Maine. She also treasured her close ties with her family in Germany, often traveling to reunite with loved ones.
Maria saw all the beauty in the world and embraced it, both through her art and her life. She will be deeply missed by her family and friends. Her wonderful, gentle spirit was truly unique, and her memory will forever live on in the hearts of all those she touched with her kindness and love.

Maria is survived by her husband, Peter; her three children, John (Shelley) Nickles, Philip (Laura) Nickles, and Aletta (Robert) Martin; eight grandchildren, Sophia, Clara, Johnny, Kealani, Ethan, Louisa, Annie, and William; two siblings, Helene Gräfin von Reichenbach and Albrecht Freiherr Knigge, as well as many beloved family members and friends.

A memorial service in honor of Maria will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Great Falls Methodist Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Maria’s memory can be made to ‘Lift me Up!’ a therapeutic horsemanship charity, at or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 104, Great Falls, VA 22066.


Memorial Service: November 18, 2023 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Great Falls United Methodist Church
10100 Georgetown Pike
Vienna, VA


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Memories Timeline


  1. Maria was a beautiful Angel not only on earth but now in heaven.our condolences to Peter and his family she will be truly miss. Rest InPeace will miss you my friend.

  2. All my love the the entire Nickles family. My heart is broken and I will miss her all my remaining years. She welcomed me into her home and her family and inspired me in so many ways. Love you Maria.

  3. Maria was such a beautiful person here on earth, I know she is a beautiful angel now. She lit up a room as soon as she entered. Sincerest condolences to all the family. She will be sorely missed.

  4. Rest in peace Maria, clearly you have positively affected a huge number of people with your kindness and open arms. You will be missed by many! My thoughts go out to all of her family!

    With love,

    Doreen Michalak

  5. Maria, you meant so much to our daughters, Doreen and Helen. Thanks and you deserve to rest in peace. With love, Hans and Anita Kempers

  6. Aunt Maria had this amazing feat to make visitors completely feel at ease in her home. Because she was both so open-minded, supportive, warm and welcoming but also genuine and frank, there was always this sense that IF you were somehow annoying or overstaying your welcome, she WOULD HAVE told you. But since she never did, there was always this awesome feeling of “being at home away from home” on every visit. I wish I had come way more often…My heart is heavy…dear cousins and dear uncle Peter, my love goes out to you.

  7. For Maria: Thank you, Maria, for a beautiful friendship.It began in 1977 through our children in school. When we met other German mothers, you invited us to come together once a month for lunch. We wanted to use our native language, talk about memories, foods and customs and our daily experiences in the New World!
    Thanks to you we have gathered in our homes for 47 years. We kept up our traditions, shared our stories, talked about raising our children and aired our concerns.
    Some of our friends moved away and new ones joined our group. The contacts span from the West to the East Coast and on to Germany. And thanks to you, all of our lives have been enriched. I am grateful for your friendship. I miss you dearly.

  8. It is my great fortune to be living nearby Maria’s daughter Aletta and to have met Maria here in St. Louis. She was so kind and friendly it seemed like we had known each other for a very long time. Actually I had seen her artwork hanging in Aletta’s house before so I was aware of her talent, but from what I’ve read here today it seems there was so much more. And now it seems like a bright light has been extinguished in her passing. To Aletta and Rob and the children, please know that my heart is heavy for you and I wish you the strength you will need to bear this ordeal.

  9. I always enjoyed coming to the Nickles barn. Maria was so kind and friendly always inviting me in for some refreshments. She was so proud of her family and would tell me about how all were doing. I wish her and her family peace.

  10. I am blessed to have known the Nickles Family for so many years and for our children growing up together. Maria was a special person, with a warm heart who reached out to everyone. Our love of horses led us on many fun adventures. I have so many treasured memories of those days gone by. I will always cherish her sharing the story of her family’s escape in WWII. Maria’s spirit will live on in the hearts of all who loved her. Rest inpeace after a life beautifully lived.

  11. Lieber Peter, Lieber John, Lieber Phil, Liebe Aletta
    Ich habe viele schöne Erinnerungen an Tante Maria. Besonders erinnere ich mich an unseren Besuch des fantastischen Gospelgottesdienstes in Washington und an unsere gemeinsame Fahrt nach Charlottesville.
    Ich wünsche Euch Halt durch das Teilen der schönen Erinnerungen. Hoffentlich sehen wir uns bald, Euer Wolfgang.

  12. Maria was a treasure full of love and grace. She surely is bringing her love and incredible talents to heavenly use now. Anytime we saw Maria she was gracious and caring. We have always been most grateful for all she did for Sara while she attended Mary Washington. It was a comfort to us that she had wonderful friends and a caring second mother to look after her.
    You will miss her terribly for all that she was and did for so many. I’m sure you talk to her and pray that she continues to guide and comfort you from above.
    Richard and Ruth Showalter

  13. Dear Uncle Peter, dear Cousins
    What a loss … ! Aunt Maria was very loved by me and my family and by all other relatives. Due to the geographical distance, we saw each other far too rarely, but then it was always as if we had just seen each other yesterday. How wonderful I remember my few visits to Great Falls where we went on tours through Washington, Arlington and in the tri-state area, to Harper’s Ferry where we had a look to the Jefferson Rock. Our walks along the Potomac. How enriching were our conversations about a wide variety of topics, always reflecting her interest, her compassion and concern. And when Aunt Maria sometimes was for a stay in Germany and Bredenbeck, she was adventurous, she invited me to lunch and dinner in my old Bredenbeck apartment, happily showed off her flea market purchases and enjoyed being among her German relatives. – So good that she came with John to Germany this summer, being with us and particularly with my mother.
    Aunt Maria’s death is close to me, and my thoughts are with you and I hope that you can bear the loss.

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