‘HOOSIERS WE’VE LOST’: ‘It’s not a joke’ — hardworking steel millwright dies from virus

Editor’s note: This is one of a continuing online series of profiles of the more than 12,000 Hoosiers who have died from COVID-19. The stories are from 12 Indiana newspapers, including The Republic, who collaborated to create the collection to highlight the tremendous loss that the pandemic has created. The series appears daily at therepublic.com.

Name: Jack “Bud” Hicks

City/Town: Portage

Age: 52

Died: Dec. 29

Jack “Bud” Hicks was a hard-working mechanic and steel millwright who knew how to build both machinery and families.

His daughters, Hailee Hicks, 25, and Marissa Donnelly, 27, remember Bud as “Mr. Mom,” regularly shouldering a larger share of the parenting duties when his wife, Julie, was working long nursing shifts.

“He really did it all,” Hailee said. “He rebuilt my mom’s entire house the last four years. He gave her her dream home.”

He coached baseball and softball teams and never missed a youth sports game or practice.

The strong family man became sick Nov. 1, and the family learned Nov. 9 that he was positive for COVID-19.

Bud, of Portage, was then hospitalized at Franciscan Health hospital in Crown Point, and the roles reversed, with his children now checking in and and looking after the needs of a man who was accustomed to playing the role of caretaker.

From video conferencing to regularly dropping off coffee from Dunkin’ Doughnuts — Bud’s favorite — the Hicks children were doing their best to keep their father’s spirits up.

A roller-coaster ride of oxygen levels that would plummet, improve a bit and then head south again would ensue for Bud.

Nov. 28 brought more severe symptoms. Bud was put on a ventilator.

And on Dec. 29, before he could see a New Year, Bud died.

“It was just really, really sad,” Hailee Hicks said of her father’s finals weeks of life.

“His grandkids were his life. He’s got 14 grandkids and seven kids. On Thanksgiving, he told my mom he was ready to give up because he couldn’t see his family.

“That was killing him more than anything.”

Hailee said she’ll especially remember the close bond Bud had with her son — Bud’s grandson.

The 3-year-old boy, “Buddy,” has autism, and Bud’s patience and love for his grandson was unmatched, Hailee said.

And like many people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, Hailee and her sister Marissa caution anyone who continues to believe the pandemic is “a joke.”

“It’s not a joke,” Hailee said. “A lot of people think it’s a joke. Once it happens to your family, you start seeing it happen to other families.

“You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s the saddest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”

— Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana