John Richard Hicks was a son of Mount Vernon, Illinois. He came into this world at his family home on North Salem Road on April 4th, 1940 and left this world from New Fairfield Road on August 4th, 2018. Only 12 miles separate John’s birthplace and his place of repose – within those 12 miles a wonderful life was realized in a short 78 years along his path.
John was welcomed at his birth by his parents Margaret (Crews) and William (Bill) Hicks as well as an older brother David. Margaret was a teacher and Bill a restauranteur, founding the L&N Café in 1926. Bill and Margaret opened a new location of the L&N Café at 15th and Main Street on July 9, 1949. The L&N was a very meaningful part of John’s life as well as the lives of many King City residents of the time. John developed lifelong passions for cooking, entertaining, and people, making friendships that lasted the rest of his life while working the Kitchen from the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s.
John got off to a slow start on those 12 miles, spending his first grade through eighth grade years at Pleasant Grove School, a one room school house just a stone’s throw from his home. His high school education brought him all the way to Mt. Vernon Township High School. John was a good student but an even better friend, developing bonds and friendships with classmates that exist to this day. John also developed interests that were also lifelong passions in music, literature, and the performing arts. John graduated MVTHS in 1958 and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He graduated with a degree in English but after a year of professional employment as teacher, SIU called him back to school to complete some unfinished student teaching assignments – apparently that’s not just a nightmare for some people and a classic case of being John Hicks. He was awarded the degree in 1964.
When John left Mt. Vernon it seemed to be for a purpose. He left for Carbondale to complete his college education, then to his first teaching assignment in Nokomis Illinois where he met his bride – Judith Robinson of Reinbeck, Iowa. Shortly after their nuptials in 1969, the newlyweds relocated to Mount Vernon to support the L&N after Bill Hicks’ passing. A few years before Margaret’s passing in 1975, John, with young son Robb and new daughter Sarah had the unenviable decision of giving up on his budding teaching career or closing the family legacy, the L&N. The L&N closed in 1973 after 47 years in business. The young Hicks family and McLeansboro High School were the beneficiaries of the restaurant closing. John retired from teaching in the year 2000 after 34 school years, 29 of those spent at McLeansboro High.
John was an active member or supporter of many Mt. Vernon and southern Illinois institutions. He represents the third generation of his family as members of First United Methodist Church, where he was a very active member for all his 78 years. He grew up singing in all levels of choir, only retiring from the choir ministry after his health failed him a year ago. In addition to choir, John was active with the Methodist Men, various youth ministries, and anything else anyone ever asked of him – particularly cooking assignments. He served as Director of the Food Pantry as part of FUMC’s Angels on Assignment ministry in his retirement where he spent most of his free time supporting the community with charity food, groceries, and consignments. John and family were so proud when he was recognized and awarded an Outstanding Service Award as a Senior Saint from the Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce in 2011 for his lifelong dedication to his family, the community of Mt. Vernon, and the United States of America.
John will be forever remembered by the family he leaves behind, his brother David and wife Libba of Charlotte NC, his nephew Bill Hicks and family of Falls Church VA, his niece Sara Ellen West and husband of Atlanta GA, and his cousin Jacqueline (Lowry) Johnson and husband of Martinsburg MO. John also leaves behind his beloved wife of 49 years, Judy, his son and daughter-in-law, Robb and Aimee Hicks of Dallas, Texas, and his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Matt Rush of Fairfield. John will always be remembered as “Pop” to his grandchildren, Jacob and Lucy, who will miss him fiercely.
Lastly, John will be remembered by many friends, neighbors, and acquaintances in Mount Vernon and throughout southern Illinois for his generosity, care, and hospitality. Unlike George Baily of Bedford Falls, whose years of ambition for adventures and a bigger life in metropolitan cities causes much restlessness and unhappiness, John Hicks lived all of his adult years in devotion to everyone else – his family, friends, neighbors, and community - content that Mount Vernon was exactly where he knew he was living a Wonderful Life; easy to sum up in mileage traveled but impossible to calculate in lives touched along the way.
A Greeting of Family and Friends will be held Wednesday, August 8, 2018 from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at First United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon, Illinois. A Memorial Service will follow at 7:00 P.M. with Reverend Victor Long officiating. Inurnment will be held at Oakwood Cemetery. Memorials may be made in John’s honor to Angels on Assignment or to the First United Methodist Church at 1133, 3818, Main St, Mt Vernon, IL 62864.