Grandmother, journalist, YMCA employee, runner, volunteer. Born July 31, 1938, in Stafford, England; died Sept. 1, 2013, in Cobourg, Ont., of cancer, aged 75.
Jackie Hick experienced the hardships of growing up in a poor family. One of five children of Jack and Annie Shenton, at 11 she won a scholarship to Stafford Girls High School. Although her father beamed with delight when he heard the news, he said education for a girl was a waste of time. He made her leave school on her 15th birthday to work in the local shoe factory like the other girls. But instead, the local librarian arranged for her to get a job at the bookstore on the high street, shelving books, running errands and making tea.
After she started working there, the school’s headmistress came to see the owner and arranged for Jackie to get two afternoons off every week so she could coach Jackie to take her school leaving certificate. The headmistress provided the books, paid the examination fees and gave Jackie lots of homework, telling her, “The reason I am helping you, Jacqueline, is that you have a spark!” Jackie graduated after a year of study.
At 16, Jackie left home. She became a journalist with the Stafford Newsletter, starting as a junior reporter and later having her own magazine section with her byline and photograph. She wrote stories about local people and local events, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous: a country vicar who saw aliens from outer space, the scandals of the local notables, a Christmas concert put on by prisoners at the local jail where a wonderful baritone brought the house down with Bless This House and O for the Wings of a Dove.
Jackie met Michael Hick at a student dance, and they married in 1960. With young children Anthony and Katherine, they immigrated to Canada in 1969. Mike joined Ontario Hydro as an engineer, and the family settled in Mississauga.
In the late seventies, Jackie returned to school to pursue her love of language and literature. After years of study, all the while working full time and raising a family, she was awarded a BA by the University of Toronto in 1985 and received an E.A. Robinson silver medal for top part-time student. Jackie loved working on her degree. Her example quietly moulded her children’s characters, teaching them to think and to strive for excellence.
In 1975, Jackie joined a small group of women who were essentially the start of the Mississauga YMCA. Ten years later, she transferred to the Metro Central Y in Toronto, where she became manager of administration and led hundreds of volunteers in fundraising. While at the Y she took up running, first doing laps around the indoor track, then with a Y relay team. In 1993, as a 55-year-old grandmother, she ran the New York City Marathon, going on to run the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996.
Jackie and Mike retired to Cobourg, Ont., in 1995. She organized the speaker series for the Victoria Hall Volunteers, helped with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Garden Tour and became an avid hiker.
With her warm personality and sense of humour, Jackie faced her cancer diagnosis with composure and dignity. She showed us how to live and she showed us how to die.
Michael Hick is Jackie’s husband.