Dennis Nicely, pastor of the Gospel Light Baptist Church
in Covington, plans to celebrate his 90th birthday at the
Lone Star Fellowship Hall at 4704 Nicelytown Rd., Clifton
Forge at noon on Sat., March 4.
Nicely, one of Shadrack and Susie Nicely’s 12 children,
was born during the Great Depression on March 5, 1933,
and he and his wife, Peggy Moore Nicely, are welcoming
their friends to join family members to Dennis’ birthday
He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950, and during basic
training in San Antonio, Texas, Dennis was one of 70,000
at the base who were living in tents during the midst of
the Korean War.
He remembered, “I developed stomach ulcers and had
surgery that led to an honorable discharge in 1952.”
Dennis returned to Clifton Forge where his father was
working as a machinist for the C&O Railroad, and he
found employment at the Shell Service Station across the
street from the Clifton Forge Courthouse, currently
Clifton Forge Town Hall.
Eventually, Dennis found work at the Sinclair Service
Station in Clifton Forge, a business that he eventually
He said, “I was in business for myself for 54 years.”
Dennis had become a born again Christian at 18 while
attending revival meeting in Danville, Va., and he became
a member of the Sharon Baptist Church.
As the owner of the Sinclair Service Station on the west
end of Clifton Forge, Dennis found success, and the
president of Sinclair Oil Company, invited him to New
York City after Dennis’ business topped the nation in
Sinclair Oil Corporation is one of the oldest energy
companies in the U.S., having been formed by Harry F.
Sinclair on May 1, 1916. In 2022, Sinclair Oil merged with
Holly Frontier Corporation to become H.F. Sinclair,
trading on (NYSE) as DINO.
Dennis’ success as a businessman enabled him to
purchase two more service stations in Clifton Forge, an
Amoco service station and the Exxon service station on
Rather than operate two service stations side by side,
Dennis converted the Amoco property into a car wash,
one that Anthony and Brad Nicely, his grandsons,
operate today along with the remaining service station
on Main St.
Dennis, a vocalist, formed the Emmanuel Quartet, a
southern gospel music group that performed in the
Alleghany Highlands and beyond for 30 years. The
original group featured Dennis and his three sons,
Dennis, Jr., the eldest who was better known as “Rusty;”
Marion and William.
Dennis is the last surviving charter member of Emmanuel
Baptist Church in Clifton Forge, and his son, William;
attended the church’s Christian school.
Dennis noted, “Everett McCulley was the pastor, and
after my salvation, I helped organize the Emanuel Baptist
After Pastor McCulley left, Lloyd Camp became the
pastor, and Dennis served as Sunday school
superintendent and music director for 21 years.
He was also a “Bible” Camp counselor at the Greenbrier
Valley Youth Camp in Anthony, W. Va. for 25 years.
Having served as pastor of the Gospel Light Baptist
Church since 2009, Dennis remarked, “I served as a lay
pastor at the Gospel Light Baptist Church before
becoming the church’s pastor.”
Dennis and Peggy Moore were married on May 26, 2007,
following the passing of their spouses, both devout
Christians. They met at the Lexington Baptist Church
where Dennis was involved in the music ministry and
Peggy was the pianist.
As a member of the Gideons International for 50 years,
Dennis served in both Alleghany Co. and Rockbridge Co.
He also ministered to residents of Scott Hill Retirement
Community in Clifton Forge for 30 years.
Additionally, Dennis served as a volunteer with the
Clifton Forge Rescue Squad for 34 years.
As for his ministry, he said, “Part of my ministry has been
For example, Dennis and a Virginia state trooper
provided financial assistance to a needy man in Clifton
Forge by paying for his lunch or dinner daily for 12 years.
Additionally, they provided him with funds to have his
teeth pulled. They offered to pay the dentist to make
false teeth for the man, but the man they were helping
declined the offer.
Dennis observed, “Now I have a grandson, Marion’s son,
Anthony, who is a Virginia state trooper.”
Especially during times when the nation was fighting
wars, Dennis would assist people who ran out of gasoline
and had no money to pay.
He revealed, “There were people who ran out of gas and
had no money to buy gas to get home, and I’d fill their
tanks to help them.”
Since 2006, Dennis has preached at the Durham Rescue
Mission in Durham, N.C. once each year as part of his
Having grown up on a farm in eastern Alleghany Co.
beside Longdale Furnace Rd., Dennis has fond memories
of life on the self-sufficient farm where he and his 11
brothers and sisters were nurtured by Susie, a devout
Christian and stay-at-home mom.
She was honored by Appalfolks of America Assoc. by
being selected as the first “Mountain Momma” of the
first Mountain Heritage Festival held at Dabney S.
Lancaster Community College in 1989. The college was
renamed Mountain Gateway Community College in July
Dennis, who performed with Emmanuel Quartet at the
Southern Gospel Revue at the Historic Stonewall Theatre
owned by Appalfolks of America Assoc. from 1991-2003,
served on the Appalfolks Board of Directors as did his
brother Carl’s wife, Nancy.
Both played significant roles in helping Appalfolks restore
the theatre following the devastating flood of 1985 that
left a muddy-three-foot-high waterline on the walls of
the theatre’s bottom floor.
Dennis has three living sisters, Joann, Margaret and
Hazel. Two of his sisters, Ethel and Evelyn, are deceased.
As for his brothers, all six have passed away: Carl,
Marion, Richard, Shadrack, Arnold and Nolan, Sr.
Peggy observed, “At 90, Dennis is still preaching
She concluded, “We are enjoying life like we were still
As for the car wash and the Exxon station on Main St. in
Clifton Forge, both remain in the Nicely family although
the gasoline tanks have been removed and the name of
Nicely’s Exxon has been changed to Nicely’s Kwik Lube.
Dennis stated, “Over the years in Alleghany Co., I have
met hundreds of good people in doing the Lord’s work.”
“I plan to continue to serve the Lord until he takes me
home to be with Him,” Dennis concluded.
Peggy serves as the pianist at the Gospel Light Baptist
Church, and the couple live on Nicelytown Road in