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100-year-old’s retirement may have to wait ’til 130

GARDENDALE, Ala. (BP)–When Lee Roy Hicks retired at the age of 65, he wasn’t exactly sure how he would be spending his twilight years.
But there is one item Hicks purposely left off his retirement agenda: stopping.
“A lot of men who retire … they go home and die. But thanks to the good Lord, I’ve kept going,” said Hicks, who for the last 15 years has been a paid groundskeeper for Fellowship Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala. — even though he turned 100 years old in December.
His workday at Fellowship begins most days around 6 a.m. when he is dropped off by his daughter, Ann Atchison (he also has a son, Roy Allen Hicks of Dolomite, Ala.). His duties include raking leaves, fixing locks, cutting weeds and whatever else needs to be done on the grounds.
He receives about $50 a month for his labor, but his labor isn’t about making money — it’s about refusing to sit still.
“It keeps me from going crazy,” said Hicks, who even sometimes walks, with the aid of a cane, the mile or so home after work, despite a bad knee and an arthritic leg.
One of 12 children born in Clanton, Ala., to a father and mother who worked in a lumber company and a cotton gin, respectively, Hicks himself started working at the age of 8 in a cotton gin for $1 a week.
Because he couldn’t reach his machine, Hicks stood on a box and had to be hidden whenever the child-labor authorities came.
Later, as a 19-year-old working in Pratt City, Hicks received news that he’d been drafted for service in World War I, which resulted in his being shipped to France.
Hicks was assigned to the occupation Army that kept order in the days and months after the shooting stopped. For his time there, Hicks has been honored — the only Alabamian to date — by the French government with its highest national award, the Legion of Honor. It’s France’s way of saying thanks to the doughboys who helped bring an end to World War I.
But don’t tell this war veteran and living monument to longevity that he should now sit back, relax and enjoy his accomplishments.
“If I sit down, I’ll die,” said Hicks, whose wife of 49 years, Ione, died in 1974.
And although he has turned 100, the modern-day Methuselah still feels he has some living to do before God calls him home.
After all, “some people live to be 130 nowadays,” Hicks said.

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  • Jason Skinner