Belt loses a friend

Friends, including many co-workers, remember Conductor Robert Hicks Jr. as a respected professional who brought people together with his attitude and sense of humor. 

Known by most as “Bobby,” he followed in his father᾿s footsteps on the BRC, hiring out in 2002 in train service. 

Switchman Joey Poczatko, who hired on with Hicks, said he was like a brother who always knew the right thing to say to make the bad times better. 

“He was my best friend,” he said. “He was always there for people. I told his wife and mother he helped me through so many things.”

Poczatko, who credited Hicks and his father with teaching him about the father and son bond, cited Hicks’ infectious laugh as one of the reasons he was able to genuinely connect with a diverse group of people. 

Related to Hicks by marriage, Yardmaster David Johnson knew Hicks all of his life. Hicks was the ring bearer at his wedding more than three decades ago. A toddler at the time, Hicks was entrusted only with a pillow and ornamental wedding rings, not the actual bands. He and Johnson would joke about it for years with Hicks feigning that he was upset at being duped. 

“Everyone loved him,” Johnson said. “He was a great father. That’s the most important aspect of being a man. There was nothing he wouldn’t do if you asked.” 

Switchman Jermane Bolden met Hicks on the job. The two clicked immediately and easily built a friendship that included their families.

“He was a natural, humble person,” Bolden said. “If you couldn’t get along with Bobby, it was because of you. I miss him so much and will do what I can to support his family as they deal with this loss.” 

As many colleagues remarked, Bolden cites Hicks’ straightforward but never combative nature. It earned him the respect of many. 

Co-workers also remember Hicks as supporting their children by attending their special events and athletic and artistic performances. He’d often contribute to the expenses of celebrations he couldn’t attend. 

Switchman Antwon Jones knew Hicks for most of his 22-year career and called him one of his closest friends. 

“He always made me smile,” he said. “He was a giving person — he’d give you his last.”

Jones added that Hicks contributed to making the Belt a good work environment. He agreed with co-workers that Hicks was a knowledgeable employee who worked hard and took pride in what he did. 

“More than anything, he was a family man,” Jones said. “He put them before everything.”

To his friends, Conductor Robert Hicks Jr. will always be a star.