ONEONTA – On Presidents’ Day the 15 of February 2021, at the age of 91, Thomas Eddy Hickey passed on at Cooperstown Rehabilitation and Nursing. By his side were his $1.99 pair of reading glasses, Ron Chernow’s 1,100-page history of President Ulysses S. Grant, and a photograph of his wife of 67 years, Jean O. Hickey.
A lifelong resident of Oneonta, Tom was born on 05 August 1929 and grew up at 18 Ford Ave. At the age of 12, part of Tom’s skull was removed to treat a brain abscess. He wore a protective helmet during the following year until a plastic plate was inserted to cover the opening. Tom was the youngest person on record to have survived this operation. Unfortunately, this remarkable outcome was when Tom’s father, mayor of Oneonta Dorr Sweet Hickey, died at the age of 44.
At the end of his second year as a student at The University of Virginia, Tom left the University to return to Oneonta to take over The Empire State Oil Company from his ailing grandfather. While taking courses at SUCO, he met Jean Ogle, and after a romance that included the no longer popular courtship ritual of shooting rats at the local dump, Tom married Jean (of Ithaca, NY) on 15 August 1953; they quickly began growing their family.
Tom loved sitting with his family and dogs on the back porch of their Victorian home on Franklin Mountain that looked from the south out over the Susquehanna Valley and Oneonta. A frequent summer pastime was to sit on the porch to watch thunderstorms come up the valley. In retirement, he and Jean spent most of May to October sitting on the screened-in porch of the house Tom’s mother built between SUCO and Hartwick College and that looked from the north out over Oneonta and its hills.
In addition to being a devoted Red Sox fan, Tom’s passion for sports included being a lifelong golfer and playing in softball, tennis, and bowling leagues. Tom was an inveterate fisherman and hunter (shooting his last deer at the age of 88) especially enjoying week-long retreats with friends in various party houses disguised as Adirondack hunting lodges and fishing camps. Although Tom’s favorite meal began with a dry martini followed by a rare hamburger finishing up with ice cream, he and Jean were 50-year members of a four-couple gourmet group that met each month to cook and eat the cuisine of a different part of the world.
In addition to eating widely, Tom and Jean traveled widely throughout North America as well as the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, and Europe including a six-week trip through Europe when their kids were all under nine years old packing the family into a tiny Citroën. This car was later used each morning to transport his children and three neighborhood girls (one of whom often had a cello) to Bugbee School beginning each day with a drop-off that stopped people in their tracks to watch everyone reverse-pretzel out of the tiny car. In addition to sports, food, and travel, Tom was a vintage car, coin, and stamp collector (especially Civil War stamps); he was a voracious reader ranging from Tolstoy to Field & Stream. Of his other defining characteristics too numerous to mention here, three must be acknowledged in perpetuity: Tom’s Donald Duck imitation quieted and entertained all babies; when sitting, his hair comb-over provided endless jack-in-the-box entertainment for his granddaughters; and Tom knew how to fix pretty much anything, by calling someone who did.
During the nearly 40 years that he ran his wholesale and retail petroleum company, Tom provided thousands of dollars of never-paid fuel oil deliveries to people in need. In addition to running Empire State Oil, Tom Hickey was a life member and elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Oneonta, a 60-year member and president of Oneonta Kiwanis, a 50-year member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, president of Oneonta Jaycees, 35 years as a Bank Director Citizen with Key Corp, 19 years as a board member of Family Service, and he was elected to and served on the Oneonta School Board. He and his wife hosted college students who could not make it home for the holidays, and they supported both Hartwick College and SUCO including creating a scholarship fund. Throughout his life, Tom donated generously to organizations local, national, and international. His final donation was giving his body to Albany Medical College for research and educational purposes.
A dedicated and loving husband of 67 years, Tom took pride and much joy from his ever-growing family scattered from the East Coast to the West Coast and Europe and who gathered for many family reunions organized and supported by Tom and Jean.
Tom Hickey was predeceased by his father in 1942, his mother Lois Eddy Hickey (Lee, at death) in 1991, his younger sister Gracia in 1981, and his second son James Hickey in 1955.
He is survived by his wife, Jean O. Hickey who currently resides at Heritage at The Plains in Oneonta; his four children, Kevin Hickey (married to Hanna), Curtis Hickey (married to Nancy), Gael Carter (married to Jon), and Lisa Christian (married to Ken); 9 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren.
Both an invited celebration and an open celebration at the First Presbyterian Church of Oneonta will be held at future dates. Tom Hickey’s ashes will eventually be interned at the family plot in Milford, NY.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Family Service Association of Oneonta, The Nature Conservancy, The First Presbyterian Church of Oneonta, or The Alzheimer’s Association.
Expressions of sympathy and recollections are most welcome at www.lhpfuneralhome.com, the website of Oneonta’s only family-owned funeral home, Lewis, Hurley & Pietrobono.