A BLESSED LIFE
November is the month in which we as a nation pay special tribute to the veterans of the armed services and their families. We have many veterans who live at Kirby Pines and we are thankful every day for their sacrifices. This is the story of one of them, Dr. Thomas Hickey.
Tom has many titles: doctor, psychologist, professor, businessman, musician, father and veteran. He has had a full life with challenges and tragedies. But, in Tom’s words, “I have lived a blessed life”. Tom was born and grew up in Jonesboro, Arkansas. According to Tom, “You knew everybody and had the opportunity to experiment with almost everything”. He enjoyed being able to walk to the movies, see a double feature for a dime and enjoy a bag of popcorn for a nickel. Since both parents worked, Tom was left in the care of the maid who basically allowed Tom to live as a “free spirit”. Tom wonders how he survived all the mishaps of his childhood, remembering at age 6 being dared to drop a match in a vacant field. The nearby houses nearly caught fire. Fearing the worst, Tom ran home and hid under the kitchen stove. His parents were able to convince him that bad deeds have consequences. He remained good friends with his childhood friends for many years.
Tom inherited his musical talents from both parents. His father played all musical instruments except strings. His mother, a contralto, was in demand as a soloist. At the age of 17, Tom was invited to play in the Arkansas Symphony. Following graduation from high school, Tom enrolled at Northwestern University to study music. However, he fell in love with a girl from Dallas and decided to transfer to SMU to work on a business degree. When he graduated with a BBA, the Korean War was going on and he enlisted in the Navy. He was selected to play in the Navy Band and spent 4 years in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Being in the band was demanding but also afforded Tom the opportunity to meet professional musicians as well as obtain free tickets to all events. In NYC he had encounters with such stars as Ethyl Merman and Judy Garland.
Tom wanted to marry but needed more income to support a family. He applied to OCS and was transferred to the Navy Supply Corps in Jacksonville, Florida. He married and had a son, James while stationed there.
Following discharge from the Navy, Tom moved with his family back to Jonesboro to take over his father’s advertising business. Becoming dissatisfied with a business life, he took advantage of the VA counseling services. They recommended a future in psychology. Tom took their advice and enrolled in psychology at Vanderbilt University, finishing with a PH.D in 4 years. Tom used this degree in several fields, first with a management consulting firm and later teaching at the University of Arkansas and Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was here “during a mid-life crisis” that Tom and his wife divorced. Tom moved to the VA Hospital in Little Rock as a psychologist. At the VA, he fell “madly in love” with his co-therapist, Sherry Faulkner. However a great offer was made to become the Clinical Director of East Arkansas Mental Health Center. Tom accepted and moved to West Memphis, AR. While there, he served as President of the Arkansas Psychological Association and had the opportunity to introduce Bill Clinton at one of their meetings. In 1976, after 5 years of long range dating, Tom and Sherry married.
Following the cut of funds and closures of mental health centers, Tom was again seeking employment. An opportunity became available with the Memphis Police Department as they were seeking someone to set up psychological services. Of this, Tom says, “I never thought I would like working with cops so much, but they are a great bunch of guys. I did a little bit of everything from consulting with the Chiefs, counseled officers and their families, screen-tested new applicants, did crisis intervention and talked people down off the bridge. It was never dull”. In 1979, Tom’s son James was killed by a drunk driver and in 2016, on their 40th wedding anniversary, Tom’s wife Sherry died of ovarian cancer.
After retirement from the MPD, Tom became tired of living along and because he could not cook, investigated several retirement facilities. He chose Kirby Pines. “I made the right choice”, says Tom. Presently, Tom has 2 step-daughters who live nearby, 6 grandchildren (1 deceased) and 4 great-grandchildren. Tragedy struck again when Tom’s oldest grandchild, a grandson, died while running a marathon in Memphis. He had just graduated from law school and was looking forward to a clerkship with a Federal Appellate Judge.
Tom enjoys playing golf, bridge, poker, ping pong, trivia and especially his music. He continues to take saxophone lessons in Jazz. He plays the saxophone with The Memphis Wind Symphony and clarinet with Santifica, the band at St. George Episcopal Church and has entertained with both instruments at Kirby Pines. Also, Tom says, “I love to travel and have traveled extensively to all 50 states, Europe and South America. I continued to do testing for small police departments and security firms after my retirement from MPD but gave that up so I could travel”.
Thank you Tom for your service to our country, to our police department and for your decision to move to Kirby Pines. You have enriched our lives with your beautiful music and your warm and generous personality. We are blessed to have you at Kirby Pines!
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines