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A Life Lived: Ola Hicks used her gift of hospitality to serve others

The Scriptures command us to show hospitality to one another, and to do it without grumbling. Ola Hicks never failed to show hospitality to those who visited in her home, and she did it joyfully.
Ola’s daughter, Kathy, said her mother enjoyed cooking, and “if you visited, she wanted to feed you. She always had cake or pie or something to entice you to her table.”
A nephew, Larry Woods, wrote on Ola’s funeral home tribute page: “Aunt Ola was a precious lady and when you visited you always got something to eat and a cup of coffee.”
Another nephew wrote: “If you went to her house to visit, she was going to do her best to feed you something before you left. ‘Let me fix you a sandwich. I just cooked a pot of soup beans. How about a small piece of this cake I just baked that has to be eat or throwed out.’”
Ola Hicks died Feb. 14 at the age of 92, and was buried Feb. 17 on her wedding anniversary. Ola was married to Carl Hicks 67 years before he died approximately six years ago.
Ola was one of 11 children. She was born and raised on Buck Mountain. Life was not easy for Ola’s family as her father was a farmer and they grew almost everything they ate. When Ola got old enough she went to work at North American Rayon Corp. She walked the 1-1/2 to 2 miles off Buck Mountain to catch Tweetsie (the train) to Elizabethton to her work. She rode the train back in the evening, and made the walk back up the mountain. “She had the most interesting stories,” said Kathy.
“She often said when growing up, they were poor, but they didn’t know it,” Kathy said with a laugh.
She met Carl, her husband, while working at NAR. He lived on the old Stateline Road, and the train passed by his house everyday, although at the time, Ola hardly knew him. Once they met, they became sweethearts and remained so for the rest of their lives.
In later years, during the 1970s, she worked at Dino’s Restaurant downtown. “She mostly worked in the kitchen, washing dishes. But, she enjoyed the people she worked with and getting out of the house. She had to be doing something all the time. And, she really like meeting people,” her daughter shared.
Ola, a twin, was the last of her siblings to die. She always maintained close ties to her family and to Buck Mountain. However, as time passed and family members died, Ola visited the mountain less often. She continued to talk via phone to nieces and nephews, who lived on the mountain.
“Cooking was her thing. She would sit for hours looking at recipe books and she enjoyed trying new recipes and sharing them with friends. The last few years she didn’t cook as much, but she enjoyed helping in the kitchen. Her specialty was Lemon Pound Cake, and we made some this past Christmas as gifts. She also made a tasty chocolate pie. And, of course her specialty was soup beans and fried potatoes,” said Kathy.
“She didn’t have an extravagant lifestyle. She was a simple person, who enjoyed the important things in life — her family, church, friends, and home. She didn’t like a messy house, and she tried to keep things neat and clean,” Kathy shared.
Ola had been a member of Doe River Baptist Church for over 65 years. In her later years she had not attended much due to health problems. However, she remained alert and helped in the kitchen some until about two weeks before her death, when she suffered a stroke.
Kathy recalls a story that her mother shared. When a teenager — 16 or 17 years old — the Navy had an Officers Training Program at Milligan College, and for several months she worked in the kitchen there. “I think that was during World War II,” Kathy shared.
Ola’s daughter noted that the past year had been hard for her mother. “She enjoyed people and having them visit, but because of COVID-19 friends and neighbors didn’t visit much, and she missed that,” said Kathy.
Ola always enjoyed reading the newspaper and her Bible and did so regularly, Kathy shared.
“She was a wonderful mother, and I so miss her. She would be the first to tell you, that life, although it was sometimes hard, was good to her. It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either.”
Ola could teach us some lessons about life — love your neighbor, show hospitality, and don’t try to be something you aren’t. Just be yourself.