Billy Gene Hickem, 94 years of age, passed away on Feb. 10, with peace and dignity, at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, with two of his children by his side. He entered his glorious, eternal reward in Heaven, at 8:15 pm. He had been a patient under the care of Covenant Hospice for the past two years.
He is preceded in death by his dear wife of 68 years, Billie Jean; a daughter, Debbie Forrester; 2 grandchildren, his parents & sister, and a host of other loved ones. He is survived by his daughter, Christy Deese (Harold); his son, Rev. Neil Hickem, both of Panama City; and his daughter, Becky Stanslaski (Dave) of Boone, NC; and 7 grandchildren & 7 great grandchildren. Bill was born on Feb. 5, 1928, in his home, in the small coal mining town of Royalton, in southern Illinois, to the parents of Harry & Loueva Hickem.
Bill became a Christian, and accepted Christ as his Lord & savior when he was 8 yrs. old, while attending a tent revival with a friend. Soon after, he was baptized and had the blessing and joy of leading his parents to Christ, within the year. They immediately became active in a local Baptist church and were baptized. His little sister Betty got saved several years later. At the age of 16, Bill got his first job, working with the Illinois Central Railroad. Tragically, he lost his wonderful, loving father in a coal mining accident, his senior year in high school, at the age of 17. He quickly had to grow up and become “the man of the house”, for his grieving mother and little sister. After high school. He moved to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he attended Ouachita Baptist University. During his college years, God called him into the ministry and he met the love of his life & future wife, Billie Jean Mosley, of Little Rock. They joined hands and hearts in marriage on Aug. 22, 1948, and were married for 68 wonderful years, until her death in 2016.
Between graduating from college and beginning seminary, Billy wore many hats. He worked in the junior high school in Prescott, Ark. where he was the principal, science teacher, band director and head coach of the boys football and basketball teams. For a short time, he also worked for The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the new rocket & aeronautical program for the federal government, which would become NASA, a few years later. Within the next year, he and his wife Billie moved to Louisville, Ky., where he enrolled in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there, he pastored 2 different churches, his wife taught school, and they had their first child, Christy. He received his Master of Divinity Degree and moved to Bentonville, Ark. in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, to pastor the First Baptist Church. While there, his other three children were born and he became an ardent Ark. Razorback fan (and was until the day he died). Bill and his family moved to Crossett, Ark., where he served as pastor for 7 years. This was a very enjoyable time and chapter in his and his family’s life. The church experienced much growth, under his leadership, numerically and in construction and renovations of buildings. Dr. Hickem served the Lord for over 55 years and pastored churches in 4 different states…Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida & Georgia.
Before his death, Dr. Hickem requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory, to the Building Fund of First Baptist Church, P. O. Box 1200, Panama City, FL 32402; and/or Covenant Hospice, 107 W 19th St, Panama City, FL 32405 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23
For the full obituary, go to www.kentforestlawn.com/tributes/Billy-Hickem