With the passing of Sandi Nichols last week, many agree that South Walton lost one of its pioneers.

Linda Miller went to work for Nichols in 1998 when she first began selling real estate.

"She moved here from Fort Walton and was the first female broker on 30A," said Miller. "I remember her wearing boots out in the sand."

Miller worked for Nichols for three years.

"Sandi was very smart and willing to help me and teach me and share her knowledge. She was modest. She didn't brag and kept a low profile. She didn't talk much but accomplished a lot. Never boastful. Low key and very private," said Miller in describing the woman she not only worked for, but admired and knew as a friend. "She loved the beach and going to Cape San Blas to scallop. She was a down-to-earth real person. She always had time to help a friend. Very giving, with beautiful blue eyes the color of the water... She was kind with a big heart."

Nichols was a Realtor, broker and owner of her own company on 30A at Eastern Lake for many years.  She worked closely with other South Walton pioneers Van Ness Butler and Doodle Harris, and together they were instrumental in bringing about new development on the east end of 30A.

"She gave women credibility in business. If she told you to buy, you did well,” said Miller.

Judi Rutland, another long-time area Realtor, said Nichols was very bright and knowledgeable.

"Her positive support of women in this business was valuable," said Rutland, who moved here in 1995. “She had a 'you can do it' attitude."

Marge Crawford also knew Nichols well and together they started their “own little Board of Realtors in Santa Rosa Beach in the early 1990s.”

"We worked in real estate together for many years and cooperated back and forth and did tours together. We are going to miss her," said Crawford, noting her passing is particularly hard given the recent death of Van Ness Butler.

“With so many passing, a new generation is coming in and I wish them all the luck,” she said. “Things are changing."

Realtor Bobby Johnson will remember her as a “listener” with a “calming influence” and “a gentle soul.”

“Losing her makes me honestly reflect on 30A,” he said. “It seems like a passing of the guard. I hope I can come off like she did — someone willing to do the right thing even if it affects my pocketbook. That's the way she did it.”