William Hicks Obituary
William Joseph ("Joe") Hicks
April 7, 1932 - December 2, 2023
Surrounded by family, Joe Hicks-91-passed away peacefully at home on Saturday December 2,2023. Joe was born in Ivy Virginia on Decca Farm in 1932. He was the fourth of five children. Growing up in the 1930's were tough times for most families. Joe and his two older brothers-Louis and Conrad-had to work on the farm including raising animals to earn enough money for the family to make ends meet. Joe would reflect on these times by stating that the family was self-sufficient-harvesting their own food and providing themselves with almost everything that was needed-only salt and ice needed to be purchased.
These early experiences instilled in Joe a strong work ethic, strong values and the love of family.
As a boy, Joe had an early love of baseball. He would saw off the handle of a broomstick and then spend countless hours tossing up pebbles in the air and hitting them with the broomstick. With his brother Conrad, he starred in baseball at Merriweather High School. He went on to play baseball on an academic scholarship at the University of Virginia where he starred from 1951-53. In the last game his junior year, the home plate umpire, who was a bird dog scout for the White Sox, asked Joe if he would like to play professional baseball for the Chicago White Sox to which Joe responded, "Mr. Ump, I would love to!" Joe's mother allowed Joe to sign with the White Sox but only if the Chicago White Sox allowed at some point for Joe to finish his degree.
Joe went on to excel in minor league baseball and was rated one of the top minor league hitters during the 1950's decade. His minor league career was interrupted from 1956-57 when he was called up to serve in the Army in Germany. He was a cryptographer. When the commanding General in Germany learned that Joe could play baseball, he called Joe into his office and informed him that he was now playing baseball. Joe played for the all-Army team and played in the Army World Series.
After his service in the Army, Joe resumed his baseball career in the minors and was called up to the majors to play for the Go-Go White Sox of 1959. Joe went on to play for the Washington Senators and the New York Mets coached by Casey Stengel retiring in 1966. In 2023, Joe was inducted into the UVA Baseball Hall of Fame. His plaque hangs in the UVA baseball stadium along with other former UVA baseball greats including his ex-UVA teammate Mel Roach.
Among his many awards and recognitions, in 1962, Joe was awarded by the commissioner of baseball Ford Frick a Baseball Citation from the American Legion for displaying those high qualities of good sportsmanship and basic qualities of good American Citizenship. Joe was inducted into the Blue Ridge School Hall of Fame in recognition of his dedication and contributions to the Blue Ridge School Athletics.
Through hard work, persistence and a passion for baseball, against all odds, Joe showed how a local boy could achieve his dream to play professional baseball.
While playing winter ball in Nicaragua in 1958, he met his lifetime partner Antonia (Toni) Moody. Joe and Toni began dating and after 6 weeks married in Managua, Nicaragua on New Years Eve in 1958. The couple returned to the United States and eventually had 3 daughters. 6 weeks became 64 years.
After retiring from baseball, Joe returned to Charlottesville and became Director of Athletics for Charlottesville Parks and Recreation for 28 years. He also umpired local baseball, softball and volleyball games until 86 years old. In 1997, Joe was recognized by the Charlottesville Umpire Association and ASA Softball in the Charlottesville District for 30 years of dedicated service. Joe was an expert in the rules of baseball and was hired by the State of Virginia to hold clinics around the state for coaches and umpires on the rules of baseball.
Joe was an avid fan of the Chicago Cubs and UVA sports, the beaches of the Outer Banks, chopping wood, playing handball and was a long-time member since childhood of Olivet Presbyterian Church.
While Joe had a love of baseball, his greater love was for his wife Toni and his family. Joe is survived by his wife Toni, his daughters Mrs. Frances Johnston (Bob) of Charlottesville, Virginia, Mrs. Debbie Jo McGowan (Doug) of Charlottesville, Virginia and Ms. Hope Hicks of Wanaka, New Zealand; and seven grandchildren-Lee and Will Johnston, Caleb McGowan (Harper), Madison and Alexandra McGowan and Peyton and Nyle Sweeney and one great-grandchild Estelle McGowan. Joe was preceded in death by his parents Ernest and Mary Virginia Hildebrand Hicks, his brothers Louis and Conrad Hicks and his sisters Virginia Dare Cassidy and Joyce Carter Breeden.
Joe was a good husband and family man with a strong work ethic and values, a down to earth person with a kind heart and gentle soul. "A true Virginia Gentleman". He will be sorely missed.
Funeral Services will be held on Friday, December 15, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. at Olivet Presbyterian Church in Ivy.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the loving memory of Joe Hicks to the Hospice of Piedmont (hopva.org), 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911.
Condolences may be shared with his family on the Tribute Wall.