Published May 4, 2018
There was something special about Al Hicks—and it wasn’t just the legendary sticky buns or Sunday dinners served at noon. Campers would chant, “We want Al, we want Al,” and he would eventually appear, wave and return to his kitchen. Al didn’t care for attention, but “when you met Al, you wanted to know him and you really wanted him to like you,” recalls Sam Arfer, a longtime cook, and staffer at F&W. He was kind and beloved and he had that effect on everyone. For thirty years at F&W, Al was a cook, a mentor, a trustee, a donor, and a friend to all. Al was the one person every returning camper would ask about. In short, Al Hicks was an institution here until his death in 1984.
Not only did he lead and help our team, he really cared that we succeeded personally.
I will never forget Al!
When Al came to camp, he’d never traveled to New England before. He was an undergrad at Fisk University in Nashville when a friend recommended him for a summer job. As a black man, Al had some trepidation about how he’d be welcomed. When F&W staff were on hand to greet him at the Rutland train station, it went a long way. An invitation to join a basketball team of camp counselors clinched it.
Kristi Webb recollects her first summer at camp when she was 5 years old and her mother, Charme—the Counselor Apprentice Director at Indian Brook—was pregnant. Kristi’s sister Meg was born on August 18th, 1961. Al made Kristi a “birthday” cake. “I hope I never forget Al’s kindness,” says Kristi, “in presenting me with a very small birthday cake that day, to help me feel more welcoming of my new little sister!”
A war and cancer couldn’t keep Al away from F&W. Al was drafted into the Army and served in the Korean War. After the war, he graduated from college with a teaching degree, taught in New York City—and returned to cook at F&W. About 15 years later, his mother, Mabel, joined him as a cook. His sisters worked at F&W too.
Decades later, Al Hicks developed cancer but insisted on working that summer. “He couldn’t absorb food so I would make him blender meals,” recalls Judie Muggia, who spent many summers at F&W, as a camper and, later, as camp nurse and parent. Although everyone remembers Al’s cooking, that’s not what earned him his reputation. “Every year he funded inner city kids to come to F&W,” Judie says, and he became an advisor to many of them. “He was an icon.”
Kris Kretsch recalls shadowing Al as a “chore.” “During that time, I learned much about the care he put in his menus and preparation. Eventually, I was fortunate to get a job as an IB cook, and Al was our director. What I remember most about that is not only did he lead and help our team, he really cared that we succeeded personally. I will never forget Al!”
Join us in honoring Al Hicks this Spring Planting on May 26 at 4pm in Plymouth, VT as we dedicate the new kitchen at Timberlake to Al Hicks
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