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February 5, 1935 – February 24, 2023

Donald Roy Nicolai, age 88 of Monticello, MN, passed away peacefully February 24, 2023 in Eagan, MN.

Don was born February 5th, 1935 to Martha and Alex Nicolai in Cloquet, MN. Don served in the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines from 1956 to 1959. After an honorable discharge he went on to become a Physician’s Assistant (PA), one of the first practicing in the state of Minnesota. He worked for 49 years full time as a PA, seven days a week, many of those at Northwest Family Physicians in Crystal, MN. He had a large practice with many patients who preferred to see him over anyone else. They called him “Doctor Don.” Again and again they told him, “When we want to feel better, we come see you.”

Don had a sharp mind and was always thinking of new inventions. In 1983 he invented the CRYOCUP™, a small plastic device which revolutionized the administration of ice massage around the world. To this day CRYOCUP™ is sold by physical and online retailers, instantly recognized by physical therapists, and remains the benchmark against which all ice massage and cryotherapy products are measured.

Don is preceded in death by his wife, Kay; his parents, Martha and Alex; his daughters, Kathy and Tawnja; and his grandson, Cole.

He is survived by his brother Ken and sister-in-law Jan; his daughters, Senja and Roberta Nicolai; his grandchildren, Adam Nicolai, Tiara Peterson, Cameron Jensen, and Dalton Jensen; and his great-grandchildren, Isaac, Rydia, Aidan, Keira, and Peyton.

Funeral services will be held on Thursday, March 2nd at 11 AM, with visitation one hour prior, at the Peterson Chapel in St. Michael, MN. Burial with military honors will commence on March 3rd at 2 PM, at the Itasca Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids, MN, where he will be laid to rest next to his wife, Kay.

13 Guestbook Entries

  1. Donna Herbel

    Doc demonstrated kindness and friendliness. He was gift both as a neighbor and as a friend. I am so sorry for the family’s loss, and grateful for the chance to have know this fine man.

  2. Bobbi Nicolai

    Love you, Dad.

  3. Dori (Skoog) Holland

    So sad. I use to go to “Dr. Nicolai” as a kid. He was the best at giving stitches. He was a great man.

  4. Doctor Jonathan Tallman

    A great teacher and a great man. I always learned so much from him working Urgent Care with him at the Crystal office of NWFP.

  5. Maxine Lundquist

    I will remember his sense of goofy humor. And the way he lived a happy life. And he made others happy too. If you said it hurts here when i do that, he would say “Well don’t do that.”

  6. Dr. Dawn Blomgren

    I worked with Don for many years at NWFP. He was so dedicated to his patients and his practice. He taught me a lot of orthopedics. He was truly a man of character.

  7. Mary Swanson

    I met Don and his family in the 1970s and worked with Don for many years. I learned a lot from him that helped me with my job in the next decades. He was a fun guy. I was hoping to look him up on my next visit to Monticello. Rest In Peace, Don.

  8. Alice Bakke

    I worked with Don many years in Monticello and I can so hear him saying what Maxine related to earlier…
    “don’t do that”
    He was a true joy to work with. I can see his sweet smile and I don’t think I ever saw him mad. I trusted him totally as my “doctor” also. I am sad
    That I was not able to be at his service today and
    Relay to the family my deepest sympathy for your great loss.
    Loved you Don 💜

  9. Janet WIlliams

    My family always appreciated Doc’s kindness. He was definitely a man of character and I am grateful to have know this fine man. He was the BEST “stitcher upper” I’ve ever met. not to mention…….caring! You will be greatly missed kind sir!

  10. Tiffany Rhodes

    My first job was at NWFP. My goal was to work with Don. He was epic. A legend. He would get the patients with all of the serious injuries. He made those patients feel so comfortable. I remember several times adults and children would come in needing sutures. He made them feel so comfortable, he would make them laugh and before you knew it, the procedure was done. The kids would be so excited to come back in a couple days to see him to get the sutures out. He gave me confidence. The things I learned from him and what he taught me would help me out in the future in every position that I had after working there.

  11. Mary Ellen Cain

    I remember Don coming into Runnings in Monticello where I worked.
    Always such a kind man – will miss him.

  12. Jim Welters MD

    I worked with Don for nearly 25 years at NWFP. He was a dedicated PA, constantly studying and learning. Patients loved him. I enjoyed talking to him. He offered many ideas for improving the practice and patient care. RIP. He and Johnny Cash can duet in heaven.

  13. Mindy

    I am so sad to just hear about Dr. Dons passing tonight while in for a blood draw at NWFC. We had seriously mentioned him earlier today at home saying I sure miss seeing him.

    He was a fantastic Doctor.


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