Connie’s Letters About Ray Hicks

Ray and Rosa Hicks’ Homeplace

Ray Hicks passed away on April 20, 2003. During the last two years of his life, Connie Regan-Blake wrote these letters, updating the storytelling community on her visits with Ray and Rosa sharing his wisdom and love.

April 6, 2001
Ray’s in the Hospital

I wanted to let y’all know that Ray went into the hospital yesterday in Johnson City and they are doing a lot of tests. As many of you probably know, he has had a rough time of it since last summer. He’s lost a lot of weight and can’t hold down any food. I talked to Rosa today and I know she is very worried…but I heard that last night (after waiting ten hours in the emergency room!) he was pulling the leg of a doctor with a story about a man who had a cat in his belly…and Ray had that twinkle in his eye.

Our community is so dear to us all.

I will let you know as I hear more news. Connie

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April 20, 2001
A Treasure of a Man

Dear Friends,

Many of you know that Ray Hicks has advanced cancer and by Western Medicine standards, it is not looking good. I am writing to ask your help by holding him in the light or praying or whatever might be your tradition…that he and his family be free of pain.

For those that haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Ray tell stories, he opens his heart and his mouth and out pours the drama and humor of life. He is a beacon of storytelling.

If you would like to, there is something else you can do. The Hicks have lived a simple mountain life, living mostly off the land. Their main source of cash income has been collecting ginseng and telling stories locally 6-8 times a year. Since his health problems, he hasn’t been able to get out and that has been a hardship financially. A special fund has been started and if you would like to contribute, please send donations with checks made out to: The Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, c/o International Storytelling Center, 116 West Main Jonesborough, TN 37659. All money will go to help Ray and Rosa in any way possible.

You might also send this message along to others who would want to know about Ray including any storytelling festivals and organizations.

I have attached a photo of the Hicks’ homeplace that we took a few weeks ago. That is where Ray was born almost 79 years ago . . . and where he is today with his family and hospice helping him through the days. Ray is a treasure of a man . . . and his wisdom, generosity, humor and uniqueness have been a gift to the world. Thanks, Connie

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May 29, 2001
Mourning Dove

Dear Buddies,

I visited Ray and Rosa last Thursday, and they are doing pretty good. Ray looked like he had gained a little weight. He had a wonderful spark to him and he was sitting up, animated, laughing and talking.

What a visit…I wanted to live there. With Rosa – both of us laughing and crying in the kitchen…and then with Ray – in the front room, him talking and tickled with himself. That wide-open, whole body smile that overtakes him and crinkles up his eyes. During the two visits before this one, I hadn’t seen that. He said he is not in much pain. He has a patch for that and he is using his herbs as well.

Soon after I first got there, I told him I had brought a booklet of letters from my friend Nancy’s 2nd grade class. As I handed it to him, instead of just glancing at it and putting it aside for later, he opened it up and page by page he looked at 43 drawings, poems, and get well messages. When he pulled 2 by mistake, he went back and separated them and looked at each one.

That’s the way I want to be …looking at each moment…and if 2 get stuck together, go back and take my time. He continues to be such a teacher for me.

He seemed so into the visiting, but I made myself stay aware of the time. I didn’t want to wear him out. I told Ray I better be leaving, and it was like old times . . . me standing up with my purse on my arm…and Ray not quite ready for me to go. He said “Wait, I’ll sing you’ens a song.” And he began a powerful, beautiful, in the moment rendition of “I am a poor wayfaring stranger” – ( he calls it pilgrim)…about crossing over and meeting his mother, and then his father. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Whew, I’m going to miss him. But who knows …maybe he will live in this world a whole lot longer.

I know this is hard for Rosa. Besides the emotional part, it is a lot more work. But she said she’s getting into the rhythm of it now. She said she woke up feeling blue the other day, and asked God for a sign – a mourning dove – to let her know it wasn’t going to be a bad day. She kept looking out the kitchen window, 7 or 8 times. And then she saw it. Said it turned out to be a pretty good day.

Their son, Ted, is greeting folks, walking out into the yard when he hears a car . . . taking up his dad’s role. I think he is a real strength to both Ray and Rosa. And their other children are helping a lot.

The hospice people are so dear. They really know what a treasure the Hicks are, and treat them with such love and respect for them and their old time ways.

It is fine to pass this message on to friends who you think might want to have an update.

Take good care, Connie

Connie reluctantly leaving Ray and Rosa’s place

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August 17, 2001
A Chance to Help

Dear Friends,

I was up to see Ray and Rosa Hicks at their place on Beech Mountain last week. Ray is still very much engaged in life even as his body is wearing out. His cancer is advanced but the hospice folks are doing a good job helping him keep his pain down. Rosa is having some health problems as well, and yet she continues to tend to Ray with such love and devotion. They both have this amazing way of being in this world and inviting you in.

You know, with all the storytelling events across America today, it is hard to imagine that 30 years ago there was only one festival devoted to storytelling and Ray was at its cornerstone. In those early days, the national media was captivated by Ray and his stories; and that helped rekindle an interest in storytelling. It also began a procession to the Hicks’ home in Banner Elk, NC, which has continued for three decades.

Over the years, Ray and Rosa have put down their hoes and stopped their canning to welcome the hundreds of curious visitors: reporters from The Smithsonian Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, all the major TV networks and countless other news and entertainment organizations. And with them came the video crews and photographers. Ray and Rosa posed on the front porch with the wood piled high, ready for the fierce winters of the mountains; they posed in the forests, gathering ginseng; and they invited them into their home that has remained mostly unchanged over the last four generations.

And always Ray told stories.

Ray and Rosa have gained very little financially from the years of media attention, but all of us who love to tell and listen to stories have benefited from their enormous generosity and welcoming spirit. I believe there is a direct connection between Ray Hicks and the multitude of storytelling festivals and events across America today.

Now is an opportunity for us to show our gratitude.

As some of you know, a special fund has been started. (Thanks to all those that have already sent money.) If you would like to contribute, please send donations with checks made out to: The Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, c/o International Storytelling Center, 116 W. Main Street Jonesborough, TN 37659.

Some storytelling organizations are sponsoring fund raising events in their communities to raise money. If you would like to help celebrate Ray’s life, please encourage the festivals and events that you organize and the ones where you perform or attend, to join in this endeavor and go for it!

To answer some questions: The money donated is not tax deductible. We are asking (with Rosa’s blessing) that no one send them cash or checks directly, but rather send any donations to the fund. All the money donated (over $4,000 so far), belongs to the Hicks, but because of the restrictions on Medicaid and SSI, the Hicks can only have so much money in the bank and cash on hand. The rules are very strict and if they go over the prescribed amounts, they are in danger of losing those much-needed benefits.

The fund has been covering things that we can’t get covered elsewhere, like ambulance trips to Boone, electrical bills, and other needs that Ray and Rosa are telling us about. It will also cover the funeral when that time comes. Hopefully there will be a hefty nest egg after all the expenses are paid, so that Rosa can stay at their home and have some sense of security.

I will keep folks posted on what is happening. Also continue to keep the Hicks family in your loving thoughts. I am thinking there is still room for a little miracle and maybe this world will hang on to Ray for another decade or two!

With great respect and love for our storytelling community,


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December, 2001
In a Quiet Mountain Way

Dear Friends,

Ray and Rosa Hicks are so appreciative in a quiet mountain way of all that everyone is doing. Rosa asked that I thank you, and all those praying for them, donating money and helping with projects around the homeplace.

The fund raising at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough was a great success. People are so generous! Tom Raymond and Bob Timberlakes offered framed photos and prints for a silent auction. Dedicated folks stayed at the table in the resource tent, collecting money, answering questions and talking about the Hicks. People took home some of Rosa’s beautiful dahlias, and come next spring, those colorful flowers will be blooming all over the United States, in 32 states and 3 countries. Over 200 people also wrote a personal message to the Hicks that we put in a big book and gave to them, hopefully to cheer them up on some of these long winter nights.

Last month, Ray agreed to have some insulation put under the house and in the walls. Rosa said sometimes when the wind blows so ferociously up on that mountain, it seems like the linoleum rug in the kitchen would lift off and fly away! – but not anymore.

Dudley Wilson, a long time friend of the Hicks family handled the whole process, from getting the estimates to gathering friends to do a lot of the hard labor. (Many of you know Dudley from his “Appalshop” days and his stage managing each year at the National Fest). Fourteen volunteers spent the day working; some on the roof, others under the house in a tiny, open crawl space. They also tackled some of the wiring, put in a new breaker box. The fund paid for all the materials – and lunch for the crew. By the end of a long day, the Hicks home was snug and safer, and for the first time in years, you couldn’t feel the wind whistling through!

Phil and I recently took Ray and Rosa warm socks, flannel pajamas and other supplies. Ray is definitely slowing down and seemed a little quieter, but the life force is still there. We all got tickled about something and had us a good laugh. We looked at old photos; one of Ray when he was 5 years old, “aridin’ a wooden bicycle” made by his uncle. Another of Ray and Rosa on their “marrying day.” It was a great visit.

We are looking for a wood cook stove in good condition. Rosa said she isn’t interested in learning an electric one! But hers is in pretty bad shape; said the new, fancy wood ones don’t work well, and the good old ones are priceless antiques these days! So if any of you have a lead on where we can get a reasonable one in fairly close proximity, let me know.

Please keep praying, too. Ray just might be meant to live another few decades and tell to a few more thousand listeners!

With great blessings to you and to all those you love . . . and to the whole world, during these holidays. Love, Connie

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Ray’s 80th Birthday

Today, August 29, 2002, Ray Hicks is eating a piece of his birthday cake in the very same room where he was born eighty years ago!

Rosa said Ray woke up feeling pretty good; he sat out in the sun for a while and welcomed friends and family dropping by to help him celebrate. In the last few days he has gotten a banana cake, a blueberry and a peach pie, a chocolate cake with fancy decorating, and his favorite – fresh homemade coconut cake.

A week and a half ago my friend, Nancy Shapiro-Pikelny, and I made our way to Ray’s after telling at the Jack Tales Festival in Blowing Rock. (It’s a great relaxed benefit put on by Glenn Bolick, with proceeds going to the Ray and Rosa Fund.) It was 7:30 that evening when we pulled up to the Hicks homeplace, and a dusky quiet and beauty was settling down on the mountains.

Dorothy Jean, one of the Hicks’ daughters, was outside, shucking the corn that was piled high on the side porch. She smiled so brightly; it lit up the evening sky. Rosa and Ted were in the kitchen stirring huge pots of corn and getting it ready to freeze for the winter. We greeted them and set down the bags of goodies that the fund had provided; soft, warm slippers, an electric razor that might be gentler on Ray’s face, a new pair of overalls for Ted, hand lotion for Rosa, and other necessities.

Then we went into the front room, and the first thing Ray said was, “All creation is made to wear out.” But it seemed within moments that the opposite was true. Ray began talking and laughing. He raised his head off the pillow to look us straight in the eyes and for the next 3 hours he regaled us with stories and life. I don’t know if I have ever seen his hands more beautiful, shaping out the images as he went and his eyes were so bright and alive. Hard to believe that 18 months ago most thought he might leave this world pretty soon.

I told Ray about the Jack Tale Festival in his honor, how everyone was talking about him, and that I had told one of his stories, “Jack and the Northwest Wind” for the first time. Ray didn’t miss a beat. He started right in telling how Jack and his Momma had been so cold with that Northwest wind howling through their cabin – and we were all transported to the world of Jack. Then Rosa brought in a full meal for Ray; corn, new potatoes, beans and corn bread and a Moon Pie for desert!

Nancy stayed in with Ray while I took some time to catch up with Rosa in the kitchen. Ted shone the flashlight out into the field full of Rosa’s dahlias. We imagined all the blooms around the country in the gardens of those who carried home paper bags with Rosa’s dahlia tubers from Jonesborough last year.

At 11:00pm we could barely hold our heads up from the laughter and the fullness of that incredible day. But Ray was still going strong, propped up on one elbow, wearing blue-striped pajamas, still telling and teaching as we opened the door to the darkness of night. How blessed this world is to have Ray Hicks for these last 80 years!


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October 2, 2002
Sending Their Thanks

One of Rosa’s Dahlias

Just a quick note. Rosa said Ray felt a little better today and had been out on the front porch for most of the day. She said to tell “all of you’ens hello; we miss ’em and thank ’em for all everybody has done.” Love, Connie

January 14, 2003
Amazing Grace

As of this moment, Ray Hicks is still with us and in the hospital in Boone. These last two weeks have been a remarkable time.

Last Wednesday, Rosa said that the nurses had not been able to rouse Ray; that his vital signs were dropping. She said she felt that he was “a’ going home.” She sent word to their kids. (Two of the daughters, Jean and Nita had just arrived home in TN after a day’s visit at the hospital so they turned around and headed back to Boone.)

Later that evening, folks were gathered in Ray’s room. His blood pressure was dropping and he was down to just seven breaths a minute. Everyone watched each slow breath rise, and waited to see if it would be his last. Then one of Ray’s beloved nurses from hospice, Tom Bennett, came in. He and Ray have had a very close, deep friendship these last 20 months and often sing and play the harmonica together.

Tom put his face right next to Ray’s and rubbed his cheek, brushed his finger across his eyelashes and called out his name. There was no response. Tears were pouring down Tom’s face and everybody else’s in the room. He took out his harmonica and said, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and he started in playing “Amazing Grace.”

It seemed he was playing Ray out of this life, but Ray had other plans. Tom played through several verses, held that last note and then silence filled up the room. The next moment Ray opened his eyes, threw out his arms and said, “That’s spirit!”

So for 2 hours everybody talked and laughed and cried with Ray. Ray even played a bit on the harmonica.

I arrived the next afternoon and Ray was still in pretty good spirits and amazingly alert. That evening Ray said he wanted to hear a Jack tale. He closed his eyes and listened with an angelic smile. I thought surely he had drifted off to sleep, but he got tickled at the end and I knew he was living it like he does when he tells them. Then Ray started in singing, switching a few lines from one song, putting them into another. But it didn’t matter. Ray enchanted us all once more; even from his hospital bed he continues to show us what is important in this world.

And Rosa – a tiny slip of a woman, sometimes so child-like as if life is a present she is opening for the first time. And then you see her strength – a mountain woman who has lived through hardships with such grace and acceptance…not so much resignation but more of a knowing the nature of the world – the birthing and living and dying rhythms and cycles that sometimes many of us don’t “see” on a daily basis.

Later that night the nurses found some pillows and blankets to add to ours. And Rosa, Jean and I made 3 pallets on the floor of the waiting room. Getting ready to settle down, we were finding things to giggle at. When we turned off the lights, Rosa spotted a star in the dark sky. We all drifted off to sleep, making our wishes for a safe journey for Ray.

With love, Connie

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February 4, 2003
Words Falling from the Sky

Dear Friends,

Ray continues to surprise us. As Joyce L. from Hospice says, “Ray has never been ordinary.” Two weeks ago he turned away from Death’s Door again and now he has left the hospital for a rehab center.

We got Rosa a comfortable blow up mattress and she is spending most nights there. When she goes home, there is a bevy of friends and family that take the ‘night shift’, keeping Ray company even as he dreams.

Ray is drifting back and forth between awake and sleep, but when he opens his eyes, he is really there for those moments. He seems smaller now, not just frail but in a contained way. As if his aura is moving more to his center, so he has a different kind of strength.

Some of my experience of being with Ray is reflected in an image by the author, Roger Housden, when he is talking about great poetry – but it fits for us listeners who have sat with Ray. ” . . . When the mind is looking the other way and words fall from the sky and the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in.”

It has been more than a month since Ray left his mountain-top place. Their son, Ted said, “Daddy told me to take care of the house, said he wanted a place to come back to.” We don’t know if Ray will sit by his woodstove back home again, but his peacefulness helps me know this is unfolding as it should.

If you’d like to send a note, the address is: Ray and Rosa Hicks, c/o Glenbridge Health and Rehab Center, Post Office Box 2150 Boone, NC 28607

Ted would enjoy hearing from you too. 218 Old Mountain Road, Banner Elk, NC 28604.

Please keep holding the family in your thoughts. I have no doubt that the loving spirit from so many friends has eased the pain for all the Hicks. Connie

Ted Hicks on Beech Mountain

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March 29, 2003
Bee Bread

This day marks fifty-five years of marriage for Ray and Rosa Hicks. The love, devotion and humor between them are still strong; and Rosa is holding true to her promise to cherish in sickness and health. Ray has been in the rehab/nursing home for over two months now and before that, 3 weeks in the hospital and before that, coming on two years since he has been able to do for himself. And Rosa almost never leaves his side.

I was up in Boone two days ago and Ray had a strength about him that surprised me. He greeted me with a big smile and said, “Caw-nie, how are you a’doin’?” And we started in talking.

On some visits he sleeps most of the time, but on Thursday he was awake and alert for most of the day. I brought flowers to celebrate their anniversary, and Ray started talking about “Bee bread” – a term I had never heard. He said this was the time of the year when bees are busy making ‘bread’ from all the new pollen to feed the baby bees. Said he used to keep bees but never got too much honey. Just enough to have a little for sweetening for his family, and they gave the rest away.

I asked him what was the hardest work he ever did, and without hesitating he said, ‘sawmill.’ Said it was so loud with the machines whirring; and then Ray made a high pitched, squealing sound so I’d know how it was to be standing next to the blades. And that it was dangerous work for so many men in the mountains.

We talked about ‘blackberry winter’ and having faith in healing. How a snake had bitten him on his right foot a long time ago and maybe that was why it was swelling up so much these days.

This had been a good day for Ray, but he has many days when he is just struggling to get through the hours. And sometimes he gets disoriented and Rosa says it “feels like we’ve lost him.” But then he rallies a bit. I know he is grateful to Rosa and the kids who help in every way.

Ray and Rosa send their love to all of you and hope you’ll keep them in your prayers.

When I reluctantly said goodbye, Ray reached up with his long arm to give me a hug. And as I was driving back down the mountain, I felt as if I were riding in a sea of blessings.

These last two weeks of spring in the mountains have been glorious with flowering trees and blossoms in every direction. Then this morning we awoke to 4″ of snow! I hope the sun is warming you. Please keep inviting peace into your heart and sending it back into this dear world. Love, Connie

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April 20, 2003
Easter Sunday

Ray Hicks passed away early this morning with Rosa at his side. She said he ‘went out so easy.’

I will let you know more as plans are finalized.

With great sadness and gratitude, Connie

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April 20, 2003
The Arrangements

Dear Ones,

Seems there is some extra energy in the air! My heart is full, and my computer is going crazy.

So first off, I apologize if you have gotten this info already, but folks keep calling asking about the details and apparently have not received this. So here goes again.

Ray Hicks passed away early this morning with Rosa at his side. She said he ‘went out so easy.’

The funeral plans are set now. Hampton Funeral Service, 683 Blowing Rock Road, Boone, NC 28607, phone# 828-264-7100. Viewing time (without the family there) on Tuesday, April 22 from 1:00 – 4:00PM, and then the family will receive friends at the funeral home from 6:00 – 8:00PM.

That will be followed by a memorial service starting at 8:00PM. There will be time to share a memory or a song.

There will be a graveside service on Wednesday morning for family and friends.

Memorials contributions can be sent to Hospice of Watauga County, 136 Furman Road, Boone, NC 28607 or The Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, 116 West Main Street, Jonesborough, TN 37659. Flowers will also be accepted.

With great sadness and gratitude, Connie

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September, 2003
A Tea Party at the Ocean

It has been five months since Ray Hicks passed away.

Rosa says she is getting along. And she loves looking out at her sea of dahlia flowers – all those colors blooming and swaying in the breeze.

Ted has had some foot problems and was in the hospital. When I asked him how he passed the time, he said he was telling stories to his ‘room partner,’ and so it continues.

Rosa lived out a life-long dream earlier this month when she saw the beach for the first time. While Leonard and Nita stayed in the mountains and helped Ted get the corn in, friends took Rosa and her daughter, Jean, to the beach. What a sight that must have been to see Rosa dipping a toe into the Atlantic Ocean! She said the ocean was ‘greedy’, that it almost took away her shoe. She had a tea party on the sand, took a boat ride, and ate a raw oyster. She said, “I’d like to go back but I sure was glad to see the mountains a ‘coming home.”

Rosa meets the Atlantic Ocean

If she feels up to it, Rosa will be at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN in October, bringing her fried pies and herbs & apple cake. And we will have her dahlia tubers in the resource tent along with Ray’s recordings and books.

Hope you can attend the session during the festival to honor Ray. We are calling it, “A Tribute to Ray Hicks,” and it will be on Saturday, October 4, 2003 at 5:30 in the Railroad Tent. If all goes well, Rosa and other family members will be there to help celebrate Ray’s life in song, music and stories.

If you’d like to send Rosa & Ted a note of encouragement or maybe a photo of your dahlia in bloom, their address is: 218 Old Mountain Road Banner Elk, NC 28604.

A listener and fan of Ray’s wrote me a note after his funeral and said, “I won’t fail to remember Ray when I spot a bright star shining in the night sky.” I think that is a good plan.

With a full heart, Connie

David Holt playing Amazing Grace at the memorial for Ray at the National Storytelling Festival.

Late summer, 2004
Roof Raising

Dear Friends,

For Rosa and Ted Hicks, this year has been a time of change and they need our help. They both gave their blessings for me to fill you in on the details.

During the last months of Ray’s life, Ted began to have serious health problems. Two weeks after Ray passed away, Ted was hospitalized due to complications with diabetes, including a hurt foot that would not heal.

Ted’s ongoing health problems have become more severe and three months ago he began dialysis. Volunteers pick him up 3 times a week for the drive into Boone, with 4 hours of dialysis each time. And he is on a list for a kidney transplant.

Ted heading up the hill for trip into Boone for dialysis

Rosa, who is also in poor health, is now caring for her son. Ted is no longer able to help her with the chores. The other Hicks children who live in Tennessee are coming up as much as they can – to plant and tend to the corn and potatoes (and Rosa’s dahlias,) trying to keep up with all there is to do on a farm.

Some of you may not know that the Hicks have never had the basic conveniences that most of us take for granted. They have no running water, no indoor plumbing, no washer and dryer and only wood heat in winter. With Rosa and Ted’s health problems, the entire Hicks family feels that it is necessary to add on a room with those conveniences. And Rosa said, “I’m ready!”

Here is how you can help.

Take a look at the brand new website dedicated to Ray and to this building project There you can make donations to the Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund directly online. You can also contribute by mail c/o The Ray & Rosa Hicks Fund, International Storytelling Center, 116 West Main St, Jonesborough, TN 37659.

If you have a web site, you could link to www.rayhicks.comand maybe send out a mailing to alert folks. You might also contact your area guild or storytelling newsletter to ask them to help spread the word.

And please be in touch with Rosa and Ted – they would love to hear from you – 218 Old Mountain Road, Banner Elk, NC 28604.

Rosa and Ted acknowledge that this is an extremely hard and challenging time. But they accept it in a matter of fact way, with an enormous amount of grace and humor that continues to be awe inspiring for me.

If you went up to visit just for a day, you wouldn’t necessarily see the difficulties. Instead, you would see Rosa’s field full of gorgeous dahlias blooming, the corn starting to tassel and the potato crop coming along. You would see Rosa’s oldest son, Leonard, up from Tennessee working in the fields and daughters Jean and Juanita helping Rosa peel peaches for canning.

You would see Ted outside on the same porch where Ray used to tell stories. During one visit recently, Leonard, Rosa and I were busy in the kitchen talking and planning about getting the room built and for a moment we got quiet. Then we heard Ted outside on the front porch telling Jack and the Giants to my friend, Nancy. Rosa smiled and said, “Listen to Ray out there.”

There is a remarkable similarity between Ted’s voice and Ray’s. And Ted is getting more comfortable with telling. As his health improves, I’m hoping we can get him down off the mountain and onto the stage. The telling seems to bring him as much healing and happiness as it did for his dad. Ted has his own style, but you can hear the same humor and generosity that we heard in Ray’s stories.

Your continued prayers and thoughts have always been appreciated by the Hicks. And Rosa still says she can “feel every single one.” Ray would have been 82 years old on August 29. What a great way to celebrate him and his life by making sure Rosa and Ted can live out their days with a few more comforts.

So please visit the web site, and contribute to the completion of this ‘Roof Raisin’ however you can.

Rosa asked me to thank the International Storytelling Center for all their support, including helping to create Ray’s web site and to all the folks that are (and will be) contributing to this project.

Love, Connie

Dear friends of the Hicks family,At the close of the year

During this time of the winter solstice, it gives me great pleasure to report that the addition for the Hicks family is getting close to being completed. It has a washing machine, dryer and electric stove, storage cabinets, a tub/shower and toilet with handicapped railings, a bedroom for Rosa and a large sitting room with big windows that look out on their fields – and beyond to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

We story listeners and tellers have the gift of imagination – picturing kingdoms and worlds from ancient and future times. But today I tremble, thinking of Rosa and Ted Hicks stepping from the home that Ray’s ancestors pieced together over 100 years ago . . . and into a snug, warm two-room addition built by the goodness and generosity of many volunteers and contributors.

As you may know, Rosa and Ted have had serious health problems in the last several years and life has been even more of a challenge since Ray passed away.

It might be tempting to idealize their more simple way of living; but think of being in your 70’s and having to make your way to the outhouse over a frozen, slippery path in bitter cold, sub-zero weather. And then spending most of the day and your energy trying to keep the hungry wood stove fed with enough logs so your fingers don’t freeze inside the house.

But rejoice! Changes are in the air. We are getting close to the goal.

As of this afternoon, we can now imagine that soon the Hicks family will be protected from the winter weather and enjoying the warmth of an automatic oil heater; Rosa pleased to have warm water at the turn of a faucet instead of carrying an icy bucket from the spring house; and Ted able to soak in a bathtub – soothing and warm – after each long day of dialysis in Boone. NC. And both heading to the outhouse only when a nostalgic mood strikes them.

Rosa and Ted – old cabin meets new addition

I join Rosa and Ted in offering a heart full of thanks to Skip Greene, Barry Nealy and to all the individuals, groups and companies that have donated their time, money, supplies and prayers to make this a Christmas and New Year like no other! We still have expenses to pay – and you can visit if you would like to contribute.

I hope these holidays and the coming year hold much joy and many blessings for you and your loved ones.

With a full heart and grateful spirit, Connie

January 17, 2014

My heart is heavy. Ted Hicks, storyteller passed away this morning at 5 AM in Banner Elk, NC. He brought much to the world in his 5 decades plus on this earth – a generosity of spirit with a gift of telling stories and jokes that brought so much joy to many listeners in and around Banner Elk as well as to audiences at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN where thousands enjoyed him over the last several years. His talents echo his famous father, Ray Hicks and the heart of his Mom, sweet Rosa yet Ted had his own distinct style and way of being in the world. In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations to help with the funeral expenses. Checks can be made out to “the Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund” c/o Connie Regan-Blake, PO Box 2898, Asheville, NC 28805.

Ted’s brother, Lenard told me today that ‘Ted was jolly this last week, telling stories and jokes while his friend Richie played music at the nursing home.’ And that ‘Ted’s body had taken all the punishing pain and bad suffering that it could – and he was ready to go. Now he is a’resting.’  Lenard, Dorothy Jean, Kathy and Juanita are all grateful that Ted is no longer suffering.

The funeral will be on Monday, January 20, 2014 with visitation at the Hampton Funeral Home in Boone, NC, at 1:00 pm followed by a short service at 2:00 pm. Then Ted’s body will travel for the last time to Beech Mountain outside of Banner Elk and be buried in the family cemetery across from the homeplace, where Ray is buried. If the weather is good – there will be a celebration of Ted’s life following that. If you can come, bring stories, pot luck food to share and instruments. And we can comfort the family and each other.

Please spread the word to others that might want to know.

And some of you may not know that Rosa had a stroke last summer and did not really come out of it. She is the same nursing home where Ted was.  She can’t speak and mostly doesn’t seem to respond.  We really don’t know how much awareness she has – but regardless, the family has decided to not say anything to her about Ted’s passing.

Love to all of you in the fragility of life,


January 27, 2014

Our dear Ted Hicks, youngest son of Ray and Rosa passed away recently.  He brought a generosity of spirit with his gift of telling stories and jokes.  Ted’s talents echoed his famous father, and his heart held the joy of his Mom, yet Ted had his own distinct style and way of being in the world.

It has been one week since we buried him on the mountainside.  On the day of the funeral, cold and blustery – a line of 12 cars creeped up the slippery slopes of Beech Mountain.  In the lead was the hearst carrying Ted’s body, dressed in a flannel shirt and bib overalls ready to be buried in the family cemetery.

After the preacher read some bible verses, he asked if anyone wanted to speak.  I talked about the legacy of the Hicks family – and how Ted’s stories would continue reaching thousands through Youtube.

Joseph Sobol said, “An old-time mountain funeral, with ice on the shady patches of Andy Hicks Road and a mud glistening on the lip of the pit where his casket hovered. The preacher read some verses, and asked if anyone had words to say. Four storytellers spoke up. Connie and Barbara shared memories. I said, “Ted sat quietly as long as his father was in the house, and it wasn’t till after Ray was gone that it dawned on us that he’d listened with a craftsman’s ear and an artist’s heart to every word of every story, and that he knew them all from the inside out. Even as his body failed him he spent the last ten years telling those stories to anybody who would listen, not for his own glory, but for that of the ancestors and of the Creator who made us all… Brother, Leonard, it’s your turn now.”

Then Vixi Jil Glenn started in on a story, a gift to Ted – and to all of us standing on that cold blustery hillside, right next to Ray’s grave and mourning our loss of Ted. She told how “Jack once put ‘Death’ in a sack and hung him high on a tree.  Jack though he was helping folks out, but after years of no death on earth many old folks whose bodies were wore out, and young ones too said they were tired and ready to go. And when Jack finally let ‘Death’ out of the sack, Jack was the first to go.”

And in that moment, we all saw Ted being swooped away by ‘Death’ – and being relieved of his tired suffering body. That image is still a comfort for my heavy heart, with the sorrow in me right now.

Older brother Leonard said, “Some woman called here this morning and asked if Ted was going to be buried on the home place. I said to her, “Ted IS the home place.”

The family is accepting donations to help with the funeral expenses. Checks can be made out to “the Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund” c/o Connie Regan-Blake, 51 Vance Gap Road, Asheville, NC 28805.