Saturday, October 13th, from 2-4pm in the East Rutherford High School Cafeteria, friends and family of Tommy Hicks will gather to remember the man that had such an amazin' life and influence on Rutherford County and surrounding areas.
According to long time friend Pat Jobe, "Tommy was president of the class of 1972. He was the manager of the basketball team, but Coach Hamrick and Coach Beason both treated him like a full assistant coach. Hamrick says in the book that he was as critical to the 1972 state championship as any of the players. Hicks maintained friendships with all the players from that team, especially Dan Philbeck and Keith Harrill. Harrill and another of our friends, Burwell Byers, ate lunch with Tommy nearly every Thursday for many of the last years he was with us. He is also a member of the East High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He worked there for many years as a substitute teacher. Both Hamrick and Dr. Janet Mason praised him as a great teacher who knew how to connect with the kids. Dr. Mason, who is now our outstanding superintendent of schools, said there were hellions who would disrupt class for some substitutes, but not Tommy Hicks." Dr. Mason added, "Tommy Hicks made a positive impact on many students and staff at East Rutherford High School by exhibiting genuine interest in their lives."
Jobe recently released his latest book honoring the life of Tommy 'Big Man' Hicks entitled Heart On Wheels: Amazin' Stories from the Life of Tommy Hicks 1954 - 2017. The book will be available as friends and family whose comments appear in the book will be in attendance to share memories and highlights of his amazing life.
Mike Krzyzewski, the 'winningest' coach in the history of Division I College basketball said this about Jobe's book. "Tommy Hicks gave much of his life to supporting Duke basketball. He was an unapologetic fan, the kind of fan that creates so much of our success. I'm sorry he is no longer with us, but this book will keep his memory alive and be a great source of joy to so many of his friends and family. When I think of the number of times he rolled his wheelchair into an arena hosting the ACC tournament, it inspires me to keep coaching winning teams at Duke."
Tommy's love of sports and laughter were evident in The Amazin' Shopper. "He was the publisher, chief writer, editor, personnel director, and inspiration for The Amazin' Shopper from 1990 until 2002." said Jobe. "He wrote four columns each week in addition to cut lines for crazy pictures involving battles with monsters and ghosts, alien abductions and such craziness as that. One advertiser said, "Nobody reads that stupid paper," but in the years to come, he discovered people did read it and loved it. He ended up spending thousands of dollars with us. Tommy's four columns, which he published under different bylines were: Sports Talk by Tommy Hicks, Rasslin' Talk by Johnny Carson, Taxi Talk by Bill Ray Frazier, and Cooking With Mike Nanney. I suspect most readers knew Tommy wrote all four columns and Carson, Frazier, and Nanney were willing to be foils for his humor. Nanney says in the book, "if I had objected, he would have just made it worse."
Nanney's picture appeared on the cover of the shopper wearing a suit of armor. The cut line read that he was showing his manhood by standing up to local mosquitoes. Nanney said he could have written for Mad Magazine. Other features included the Hanes Tower. He would cut out a head shot of a local notable and then glue it to a photo of the huge blue water tower at the corner of East Main and Smith Grove Road. Under the photo he would write about how this person had been nominated because of their contributions to the community. The nominations often included Hicks's bizarre take on things. For instance Pat Nanney, local standout D.J. and car salesman, had already been celebrated as an alien from another planet. Hicks said local folks would be proud to see Nanney's photo on the tower because we love cars and other planets. The joke was that at some point all the nominees would be voted on some local standout's photo would be permanently affixed to the tower. Of course, I would love to see Hick's smiling face on that tower. It might cost several thousand dollars, but it would be a lot of fun and I think the town would end up benefiting from tourists who might travel to see the giant photo. Maybe we could build a little Tommy Hicks museum at the foot of the tower. His sweetheart, Frieda Sellers, said of him, 'He had an infinite capacity for love.' I'd love to see that on a plaque on the wall at East High School."
When asked about his relationship with Tommy, Jobe replied, "He literally had about 15 best friends. Ben Roach, who was also a childhood friend and graduated from East Rutherford with us, said Tommy was the best kind of friend. He depended on all of us for so much help, but made us feel nothing like sorry for him. We admired him, laughed with him, shared stories with him, made an unbreakable bond among all of us. He was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was nine, but kept playing all kinds of sports as long as possible. He played ping pong from his wheelchair for more than 30 years and he rarely lost. We met in first grade, finished high school together worked together to publish The Amazin' Shopper and lived together in '08 and '09 for nearly a year. When he passed last September, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had been so close to a truly remarkable human being."
If you'd never had the pleasure to meet this man, as few natives can claim, you can surely understand what kind of person he was simply through the testimony of his 'tribe'. His classmates at ERHS, friends, family and coworkers have grieved unashamedly since his passing and expressed it openly in many ways. Jobe's book and many other tributes to his memory exemplify his courageous heart and contagious love of life. Here's to you and your amazin' life Tommy Hicks. Thank you for the reminders to not take ourselves so seriously, laugh often without reservation and love deeply and passionately. Even in your passing you still have the capacity to inspire us.