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Army veteran of three wars celebrates 90th birthday

President Donald Trump renders a salute during the 119th Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 8, 2018. The Army defeated the Navy for their third year in a row. (Spc. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

Grandville “Mick” Hickey of Berea was born on Oct. 24, 1929, in a little town in Arkansas. On Oct. 24, 2019, the Army veteran will celebrate his 90th birthday with family and friends at the Berea Depot restaurant.

Hickey says those 90 years were filled with adventures, good times and bad, but he’s proudest of his service to his country.

A career military officer, Hickey served on active duty from 1947 to 1967, serving during both the Korean War and Vietnam War. He retired as a major with 3rd Army Headquarters at Fort McPherson in Georgia.

“I enjoyed working with the soldiers,” Hickey said. “I got an education in how to be a leader.”

As a child, he, his parents and five brothers and a sister moved throughout the South. Relatives still farm in rural Arkansas. That didn’t appeal to young Hickey. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1943 and served in the Pacific during the tail end of World War II.

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“I was only 15,” he recalled. “They were looking for bodies and I told them I was 17. No one checked.”

Later, he enlisted in the Army. The Korean War heated up, and by 1952 he found himself in the Army Ordnance Corps with a 14-month stint in a war zone hauling ammunition to the troops and maintaining vehicles.

“It took five people to support one infantryman at the front. I was one of the five,” Hickey said.

A baseball fan, Hickey played center field with the 3rd Infantry Division team. It was the 1950s and Mickey Mantle was considered the premiere Yankees center fielder. Hence, Hickey’s nickname, “Mick.”

“I am not a Yankees fan,” Hickey emphasized. But the name stuck.

Impressed by his work ethic and leadership skills, the Army sent him to Officer Candidate School. Later postings sent him to Japan, Germany, Fort Benning, Ga., the Atlanta Army Depot, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, where he was assigned as an aide to the general who was president of the country at the time.

“A lot of the time there was not pleasant,” Hickey said. “It’s not a comfortable place to live.”

Hickey missed out on an in-country Vietnam deployment. “Our unit was told to get ready to go, and at the last minute, it was canceled,” he said. He spent the Vietnam War at the Atlanta Depot, getting equipment and supplies shipped to combat troops.

When he retired from the Army, he was offered a job with Sherwin-Williams Co. in its Dallas office. That morphed into a transfer to the company’s Cleveland headquarters, where he spent 18 years in the transportation department.

He and his family settled in Berea 30 years ago, where his two sons, Patrick and Richard, graduated from Berea High School. Patrick still lives in Berea. Richard is in Japan. Hickey’s wife, Elizabeth, passed away in 2008. They have seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Now, Hickey is considered the King of Ellen Drive. He and his long-time companion, Dana Farago, play host to impromptu and planned parties with neighbors. From barbecues to casual drinks on the patio, the Hickey home has become party central.

“We used to play golf,” Farago said. “That’s how we met — on a blind date.”

Hitting the links is now in the past, but socializing is still a priority. Hickey is often the party planner for monthly get-togethers for the neighborhood, usually at the Grindstone Tap House at Berea’s North End.

“Neighbors also stop by to make sure we’re OK,” Farago said.

Hickey says he’s looking forward to his 90th birthday party.

“I never thought I’d get this far,” he said. “And it’s wonderful that people want to help me celebrate.”

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© 2019 The Plain Dealer