Like so many things in life, Tommy Hicks loved Christmas.
He had "an infinite capacity for love," according to dear friend, Frieda Sellers.
He loved sports, politics, friends, family, and women.
Life-long friend, Mike Nanney said, "He loved women and they loved him."
Many friends claimed to be his best friend. One guy said, "He told me I was his best friend, but not to tell anybody." At least, 11 other people told the same story, but during the ten years he published The Amazin' Shopper one friendship stands out like a bright star on a Christmas tree. Jan Brittain Sailors designed the roughly 500 copies of the shopper that Hicks published. She listened to his constant stream of funny one-liners, commentary on what he called "the mysteries of the mind," his thousands of attempts to sell advertising over the telephone with his irresistible closing line, "Come on." Sailors ran errands, ran interference for visitors who took advantage of his gracious spirit, ran heartstrings to the irrepressible character who always felt larger than life.
Sailors continues to produce outstanding designs for Rutherford Weekly, 29 years after Hicks hired her.
When he passed from this world in 2017, Dr. Tim Luckadoo said Hicks appeared to him in a dream, but it did not feel like a dream.
He said, "I found myself in heaven. I felt like I was just visiting, not going there to stay. The part of heaven I saw was made up of the most beautiful, incredibly green, rolling hills and valleys. There were lakes and rivers in the distance, and the sky was bright blue with large, white, billowy clouds.
"Near the top of one of the hills was the entrance to a great forest made up of towering, majestic trees. Standing at that entrance path was Tommy Hicks with a big smile on his face. He was tall, slender, very handsome, around 40 years old, and almost glowing with energy. As I approached, he excitedly said 'This place is amazin', Luck. I can't wait to show you around!' He grinned, then turned and walked into the great forest.
"When I awoke, I had a feeling unlike I had ever had after a dream. It all seemed very real and I found myself wanting to be in heaven with Hicks. It must be an amazin' place. I honestly believe that this dream was a message from Tommy and God to let us know that he is happy and healthy, and that we can look forward to being with him again someday. Won't that be amazin'?"
Since that incredible experience, other locals claim to have met Hicks in what are called near-death experiences. He is always a comfort.
Forest City Mayor Steve Holland said as a high school student, he had Hicks for a substitute teacher, a job he worked at East Rutherford for many years. Holland said Hicks announced a pop quiz to groans from him and his classmates. There was only one question. Which is better, Duke or Carolina? Holland was the only student who answered Duke. Hicks said, "Steve gets 100. Everybody else gets a zero."
It's almost Christmas and his family still loves the memories of Christmas parties at Hicks's house. He would make a game of distributing Christmas cheer in envelopes. The games always involved great laughter.
Another Christmas memory that made him laugh so hard was his mechanical Santa Claus, a two-foot doll that would come to life and scare the Charles Dickens out of people who walked near it. The doll held a Coke bottle and a "ho, ho, ho," that brought great joy to the teacher and shopper publisher. He loved to create memories that would go on and on.
He touched many local lives with a joy and inspiration that has lasted the four years since his passage and will last as long as any remember him and celebrate him. This list is always short of some, but surely includes a few of those who loved him, laughed with him and felt such loss. It includes: Sellers, Sailors (her children and grandchildren,) Luckadoo, Nanney, Dan Philbeck, Ben and Tim Roach, Randy Oliver, Keith Harrill, Christy Jackson, Russ Horne, David Smith, Pam Childers, Burwell Byers, Mike Sechriest, Sybil Yount, Becky Hunt Carson, devoted caretaker Johny (one n) Carson, Rick Robbins, Vivian Whittemore, Sherry Allen and her amazin' painter husband, James; his sisters: Mary, Linda, and Laura and their spouses; his nieces and nephews: Kat, Patrick, Hannah, Maddy, Reid, and Courtney, Chris Riegert, Trish Riegert, Julie Collins, Karen Carlton Parks, Nancy Wilkie Kelly, Debra Gibson Haney, his spirited children: Luke, Maggie and Lillian and their mama, Teresa Price, Penny Albert and her kids. Grady Pope, Connie Mack Hamrick, Richard "Reece" Greene, and Billy Joe Davis. Other kinfolks and friendships stretch in dozens of directions. All who feel left out must know that no malice is intended.
Next time you see a Santa Claus holding a Coke bottle, maybe you can imagine Hicks's laughter, throwing his head back and howling with delight.