As It Happens

Why 'smoking hot' Sybil Hicks' kids honoured her with a cheeky first-person obituary

When Sybil Hicks died last week, her children knew they couldn't write an ordinary obituary for such an extraordinary woman.

'We wanted to do something that kind of celebrated who she was ... and have some laughs,' says Brian Hicks

Sybil Hicks, 81, died on Feb. 2, 2019, of complications from Alzheimer's. (Reynold's Funeral Home )


When Sybil Hicks died last week, her children knew they couldn't write an ordinary obituary for such an extraordinary woman. 

Hicks had been living with Alzheimer's for years, and it had been a long time since they could communicate with their mother as they once knew her — an outspoken woman with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. 

"We just thought that when she passed, we really didn't want to have this sort of boilerplate template obituary," Brian Hicks, the second eldest of Sybil's five children, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"We wanted to do something that kind of celebrated who she was and to give us an opportunity to basically have one last conversation with her, and have some laughs at the same time."

So after she died peacefully on Feb. 2 at the age of 81, Brian and his sisters Barbara and Brenda penned a brash, but heartfelt, first-person obituary that contains such zingers as "I finally have the smoking hot body I have always wanted… having been cremated."

The obit, which was published in the Hamilton Spectator and on the Reynold's Funeral Home website, has been shared thousands of times on social media. 

It opens with the line,"It hurts me to admit it… but I, Mrs. Ron Hicks from Baysville, have passed away."

Mrs. Ron Hicks and the horse's ass 

"She often referred to herself as Mrs. Ron Hicks when she wanted to be forceful and make a point and kind of get on a bit of a soap box," Brian said. "She often used that term when she had an opinion about things."

And Sybil often had opinions about things, he said. 

But while she invoked her husband's name for her own, she had an entirely different name for him.

Hicks, the Ontario nurse whose first-person obituary has gone viral, takes a walk on the beach. (Reynold's Funeral Home )

"I leave behind my loving husband, Ron Hicks, whom I often affectionately referred to as a 'Horse's Ass,'" the obituary reads. 

"That's a term she used an awful lot, and I'll give you an example. You know, often when she would say something loud and with authority, my father lovingly said to her, 'Sybil, you know, can I help you down?'" Brian said.

"And she would kind of look at him quizzically, and she said, 'What do you mean?' And he goes, 'Well, I can help you get down off that soap box if you like.' And she would then call him a horse's ass. So that's sort of how that term of endearment came about."

The 'tolerated' children 

But Ron — who the obituary notes is now being cared for by his "special friend Dorothy" — didn't mind being razzed by his late wife one last time from beyond the grave. 

Once they'd written the unconventional obituary, the siblings called their dad to run it by him, Brian said.

"We started to tell him and there was silence on the other end — and we realized that he was laughing because it was just perfect," he said.

"He just felt so comfortable with the way that we presented the idea and he just said, 'Carry on and I hope the service is just as fun to celebrate your mother's life.'"

The home was always open and welcome to their friends as well as all of our friends as kids. Every one of our friends just didn't want to leave.- Brian Hicks on his mother's hospitality 

Each of Sybil's kids — whom the obit notes she "tolerated over the years" — got a special shout-out.

Bob, the eldest, is noted as her favourite. Barbara is described as "Miss Perfect. 

Brenda "would run to clean the bathrooms when she heard company was coming," and Bruce, the youngest, "wouldn't eat homemade turkey soup because he didn't want to be alert looking for bones."

Brian gets second billing as "the Oreo cookie favourite."

"My sisters keep claiming that I took all of the Oreo cookies out of the bag and then pretended I never got one so my mother would buy me a bag just for myself," he said. "They were always teasing me."

'A kind-hearted person'

But as the siblings lay their mother to rest on Thursday, they will be remembering her for more than her humour.

Sybil Hicks worked as a nurse and helped her husband run a school bus company in Baysville for 20 years.

She sewed vests for the local Lion's Club, of which she was a member. She collected bottles for charity, taught sewing classes, and loved to garden. 

"She was a kind-hearted person, always had a smile," Brian said.

Hicks of Baysville, Ont., was a member of the Lion's Club and sewed her local chapter's vests. (Reynold's Funeral Home )

"The home was always open and welcome to their friends as well as all of our friends as kids. Every one of our friends just didn't want to leave. They'd end up overnight or for the weekend because they enjoyed our family dynamic."

Sybil leaves behind her her husband and his partner, five children, and 13 grandchildren. 

"To be honest with you, she's probably looking at Barbara, Brenda and myself and maybe taking some of the pressure off my dad by calling us the horse's asses," Brian said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong.