Former Salem firefighter who died after contracting coronavirus laid to rest

John Hicks died less than a month after his diagnosis

SALEM, Va. – With the baseball diamond as his backdrop, John Hicks was laid to rest Monday. The former Salem firefighter died last week after a short battle with COVID-19.

Hicks, 71, died less than a month after his diagnosis.

With full honor, his service was held at the Salem Memorial Ballpark. His “End of Watch” call was played during his service.

As a former firefighter, grocery store worker, and Salem and Roanoke County schools bus driver, he wore many hats.

“He always had some type of part-time job. So, whenever he left the fire department, he was always headed to another job. He taught us a whole lot about work ethic,” said Salem Fire Chief John Prillaman, who remembers him as a fun, outgoing guy.

Hicks was present on Prillaman’s first day on the job.

“We never were really sure if he was being serious or not,” stated Anna Ritter. She drove buses with Hicks in Salem.

“One time we were having a safety meeting and John was talking and somebody said, ‘How do you know if he’s telling the truth or not?’ I said, ‘If his lips are moving he’s telling a lie. He got a big kick out of that,” said Ritter.

WSLS 10 News spoke with his daughter, Beth Wells, the day after his passing.

“My dad wore a mask. He social distanced. He did everything he was advised my the experts to do, and my dad still got sick,” said Wells. She says her dad was a healthy man and believes his age was the only contributing factor to his struggles with the virus.

“I don’t think my dad understood how much people cared about him. I don’t think I would just tell him. I wish I had the opportunity to just show him,” said Wells.

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