Kenneth William Hicks
June 18, 1923 – June 19, 2019
Bishop Kenneth William Hicks, 96, died Wednesday, June 19, at his home in Shepherd’s Cove in Little Rock midst his wife and family. He was born as the only child of Earl and Ertie Hicks on June 18, 1923, near Iola, KS, and graduated from high school in 1941. During the early years of World War II, he worked in a Nashville TN airplane factory where bombers were built.
Eventually, he attended junior college, after which he enrolled at York College (NE), completing a B.A. degree. He then enrolled at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, earning his Master of Theology in 1953. Ordained a Deacon in 1952 and an Elder in 1953, Hicks served Methodist churches in Colorado for seven years, and then later in Nebraska including five years as a District Superintendent.
Rev. Hicks met his lovely wife Elaine in college and they married in 1946. From then until he died last Wednesday, they were one another’s counsel in all matters.
Hicks was elected to the United Methodist episcopacy in 1976, first serving the Little Rock and North Arkansas Conferences (merging in 2002 to become the Arkansas Conference). While in Arkansas he established an excellent record of credibility and gained a respectable reputation for leadership in human relations, justice issues, and a respect for life. He was also called as a plaintiff to testify against the legislation that would have allowed Creation Science to be taught in Arkansas public schools, which was eventually repealed.
In 1984, Bishop Hicks was assigned to the Kansas Episcopal Area, which included the Kansas East and Kansas West Conferences. Again he served for eight years, prodding and challenging the pastors, District Superintendents and laity in his care to innovative and effective approaches to ministry. While there, a Kansas church-affiliated hospital came into a negotiated sale arrangement to a private corporate entity. Though he walked into the developing stages of this sale in his first months in the state, he presided over the consummation of a matter seething with controversy. The hospital is still operating under the name Wesley Medical Center. After retirement, Hicks served on the board of Kansas Health Foundation for eleven years.
In 1992, Ken and Elaine retired back to Arkansas, where he was given an office in Little Rock’s PHUMC as Bishop in Residence. Though retired, his services were always in demand and his commitment to issues and causes close to his heart continued to beckon. Ken Hicks served as a member of Arkansas Friends for Better Schools, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Governor’s Partnership Council for Children and Families, Advisory Council of Carelink, Interfaith Caregivers Alliance, Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty, and the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He was also a docent at the Clinton Presidential Library, a member of the Steering Committee of Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light. And for several years he was part time director of Ministries of Methodist Family Health.
Ken Hicks’ active ministry included membership on the General Board of Church and Society, and the General Board of Global Ministries being chair of the National Division. Committee chairmanships on these boards included Peace with Justice and Chair of the Advisory Committee on Korean Ministry, among others. Notably, Bishop Hicks was in the forefront of the Peace Ministry at PHUMC begun in 2002 focusing on peacemaking and reconciliation. Many of his writings and thoughts were collected, edited and published in a book entitled “Peace Flowing Like a River” in 2010.
Hicks was granted honorary degrees from Nebraska Wesleyan University, Westmar College, Philander Smith College, Hendrix College, and Baker University. He also served on the Board of Trustees at the latter three schools plus St. Paul School of Theology, Southwestern University, Kansas Wesleyan University, and S. M. U. in Dallas. He also served as a Trustee for Mount Sequoyah Assembly, Youthville Inc., Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Methodist Hospital in Memphis, and Friendly Acres Retirement Center.
His many awards included Civil Libertarian of the Year by the ACLU-Arkansas (1984); the Senator David Pryor Award (1997) for Community Service by CareLink; the Ethel K. Miller Award for Religion and Social Awareness by Hendrix College (1999); and he and Elaine received the Hospice Foundation of Arkansas Compassion Award (1999). He also received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Iliff School of Theology.
Ken is survived by his lovely wife Elaine, who shared their incredible life journey. And they have been proud parents of two very accomplished daughters, Linda Hicks and Debra Gottschalk, who with the late Wayne Gottschalk parented Ken and Elaine’s very special grandchildren: Kiley and Spencer. Ken was predeceased by a multitude of beloved pets including Danny.
A special thank you goes out to Ken’s caregivers – Andrew, Curtis, Debbie, John, LaTonia, Lucille and T.J., with an appreciative nod to Arkansas Hospice.
A Memorial Service of Resurrection and Thanksgiving to God for Bishop Hicks was held on Friday, June 28, in the sanctuary of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn, Little Rock 72205. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks Peace Endowment at PHUMC; Methodist Family Health, 1600 Aldersgate Road #200, Little Rock 72205; or the Kansas Health Foundation at 309 E. Douglas Ave., Wichita, KS 67202. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home, www.ruebelfuneralhome.com.
Lila Elaine Hicks
March 30, 1926 – June 29, 2019
Lila Elaine Hicks was born in Scottsbluff, NE, March 30, 1926 and died June 29, 2019, at her home in Little Rock AR. Elaine was predeceased by her husband, Bishop Kenneth Hicks, and son-in-law, Wayne Gottschalk. Her survivors are daughters Debra Gottschalk of Topeka KS, Linda Hicks of Cabot AR, granddaughter Dr. Kiley Gottschalk (Oren Lee-Parritz) of Waltham, MA, grandson Spencer Gottschalk of Topeka, KS. She became a true Nebraska girl, living in cities throughout the state under the loving gaze of her mother, Martha Magnolia (Nolia) and an abundance of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who helped define and shape her into a woman who cherished “family”. While attending York College in York, Nebraska, where she pursued teacher education curriculum, she attended an event, in the Fall of 1945, where a student by the name of Ken Hicks was the Master of Ceremonies. She mentioned to a friend she rather liked him. Two days later he called her, they went on a date, became engaged in November 1945 and were married August 11, 1946. After being married nearly 73 years, they decided it was going to last.
The life of a minister’s wife was one of adapting, listening, extrapolating, being creative, being objective, being politically correct, knowing and being social …all while modeling love, grace, intelligence, wisdom and discipline for her daughters, so they could become the best people they could be. With passion, organization and fortitude, she orchestrated the residential moves which occurred about every four years into parsonages in a variety of floor plans and conditions and communities of various personalities. Working was necessary, so she became a Jill of many trades…a dental assistant, a doctor assistant, a kindergarten teacher, an administrative assistant…and a Master of all. Her love of music and wonderful organizational skills enhanced many roles in the churches.
In the role of a Bishop’s wife, she added another job to her resume. Her support of Ken, through facilitating meetings for Bishops and spouses, organizing conference events, organizing Ken for travel…and life, actually…, providing counsel to him, and participating in all facets of the Episcopal wife’s duties rounded out the job description.
When the grandchildren were born, life became even richer for her. She guided them with love and joy, becoming the MaaMaw these children needed to navigate this life.
Elaine belonged to many civic and church organizations, including being part of the first group of people serving as proud volunteers at the Clinton Presidential Center and being a member of P.E.O. Through these opportunities, she brought cherished, enduring friendships into her circle of life’s abundant gifts.
Animals…she loved them all, from rescued baby birds to feral cats to not feral cats, to butterflies, to parrots, to dogs. Abby, her rag doll guardian cat of the last 5 years, was a magical gift, a touchstone for Elaine in good, bad and “It’s OK” times, a spirit dashing between bedrooms, care-taking her beloved people.
A village of people walked with Elaine through the last phase of her life, including caregivers Andrew, Celeste, Curtis, Debbie, John, Latonia, Lucille, TJ, and Arkansas Hospice. The family offers profound appreciation for the respect, kindness, generosity and compassionate care she was given.
Elaine Hicks was probably more than anyone knew, almost always giving the stage, the credit to her successful husband. However, he would not have been who he was or what he accomplished…nor would her children and grandchildren…without this woman of intelligence, resilience, wisdom, humor, and love…a river of deep, generous love.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made to organizations close to Elaine’s heart:
Bishop Kenneth W Hicks Peace Endowment at PHUMC, 4823 Woodlawn Drive, Little Rock 72205
An animal rescue organization of your choice.
A celebration service honoring Elaine’s life as she transitioned and a service of thanksgiving and resurrection for her husband, Kenneth Hicks, were intertwined, as were they, at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church on Friday, June 28, 2019.