T he year 1928 was quite an eventful year for the Hickey family. That year, our grandparents, James T. Hickey and Lillian nee Burns (whose father, James E. Burns, established the Burns Funeral Home in Hammond, Indiana, in 1908), gave birth to our father, Robert J. Hickey. It was also the same year that James and Lillian began their lifelong career in funeral service. The Oak Forest Undertaking Company eventually became Hickey Funeral Home and later moved catacorner from its location near the southwest corner of what we know today as 159th and Cicero Avenue. The original building remained in that location until 2001. In 1937, our grandfather opened the funeral home in Blue Island. In 1948, the Oak Forest location was sold and he purchased the Heinen Funeral Home in Chicago that was sold back to a son-in-law of the Heinen's in the early 1950's.
Late in the year 1953, our father Robert - with the help of his father James - bought the "White House" (the home of Mr. White's family; Mr. White was the first Mayor of Midlothian). In 1955, after the initial additions, the "White House" became the Hickey Funeral Home in Midlothian. Our father resided there for the rest of his life with his wife Myrt (nee McGurk); somehow, they raised their 7 children in what was at that time a small apartment above the funeral home (1973 saw an addition that more than doubled the size of the apartment - right at the time that many of the children began moving out for college, marriage, etc.).
In 1977, we purchased the Baskerville Chapel in New Lenox after Mr. and Mrs. John Baskerville decided to retire to California. Additions to this chapel were made in 1981, however, in an effort to better serve increasing needs of the New Lenox community, we are seriously considering building an entirely new facility in the same general area rather than trying to expand the existing building.
Since taking over the operations of the Blue Island Chapel in December of 1996 (which operated as the Vandenberg Funeral Home from 1980-96), we have done some extensive renovations, including exterior and interior remodeling, improved parking, new handicapped-accessible restrooms, new furnishings, carpeting, and a wheelchair lift and entrance.With a history dating back to 2-digit telephone numbers (for instance, Tinley Park #56 or Blue Island #14) and to a time when "undertakers" didn't see the need and believed the telephone to be a fad that would surely pass, we have provided families with caring and compassionate services in their time of need. Our long history has produced many stories, which we listen to with pride and sometimes even a little embarrassment. We've included some our favorites below.
In the 1930's, James T. Hickey was called upon by his friend, Mr. Moore, who owned the local dairy. Mr. Moore was concerned about many of the area women and children during a lengthy Milk Drivers' strike. As the story goes, Grandpa Jim and Mr. Moore smuggled out and delivered milk to those that needed it most, and they used HICKEY'S AMBULANCE as the delivery vehicle (the motto was, "Drink Moore Milk").
During the Depression, Grandpa made his own caskets in order to accommodate the many indigent burials he was asked to handle for the County T.B. Infirmary (now Oak Forest Hospital), located across the street.
Grandpa let a young soldier from the neighborhood who had just returned from WWII use his "big black sedan" to go out on a "special date" and propose to his future bride.
After a fire at a parish rectory, the priests housed there were made welcome in our grandparents' home above the funeral home. Despite Grandpa's early morning wake-up to all of the priests (because he didn't know who was going to say the early morning Mass), it's said that Grandma's baking may have been the cause for the delay in their return to the new rectory.
The number of people in the community who never received an ambulance bill - a common practice of our father (and probably the reason we're no longer in the ambulance business).
The family dog, a very large but affectionate St. Bernard, wandered through the chapel during a visitation with big tail wagging. He was quickly apprehended, but not before making a lasting impression on anyone present.
Robert Hickey was an elected official who wasn't a "politician;" he served as a village trustee for 16 years. During normal brisk door-to-door campaigns, Bob would often be found far behind, sitting on a porch with an elderly widow or anyone else who "just needed someone to talk to," much to the dismay of the other candidates and campaign workers. The explanation once given by a friend for this behavior was simply, "That's Bob Hickey and you couldn't drag him away, that's who he is."Bob was usually re-elected and spent most of his four terms as the only opposition member on the Village board, despite his opponents powerful political stronghold and the local media they controlled (which they used to attempt to discredit or humiliate him). Almost anyone who knew Bob, regardless of any political obligations, never questioned his integrity.
The respect Bob shared with everyone he encountered was returned; he passed away on January 1, 1989 and of the over 1000 people (including many who waited in line outside in the cold January weather) who paid their respects, many were people who only knew him as the local Funeral Director who helped them when they needed it the most. They simply felt obligated to pay their respects. Not the picture of Funeral Directors painted by the news media, is it?