James Hickem III's family remembers his independent spirit

Friday, November 18, 2011 | 7:10 p.m. CST
James Hickem III poses for a photo before attending prom in 2010. "The one thing about him, he did it his way," his grandfather James Hickem said.

COLUMBIA — "Enjoy the day" was the theme of James "Jamon" Hickem's life.

"He wanted to do what he wanted to do," his dad, James "Herman" Hickem II, said.

And he did.

Hickem did things expected of a "typical" teenager, such as sneaking out of his window after his father told him to stay home.

"The one thing about him, he did it his way," his grandfather James Hickem said.

James "Jamon" Hickem III was found dead Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. The exact date of his death is unclear. He was 17.

Preliminary findings support the fact that Hickem fell from nearly 140 feet, medical examiner Eddie Adelstein said. Hickem's body was found Tuesday by a worker at Boone Quarries.

It will still take a couple weeks before the medical exam is complete. Adelstein is trying to determine whether any drugs were involved and whether there was something in Hickem's brain that might have affected his balance and caused him to fall. He said there is no evidence of foul play.

Hickem wasn't supposed to be at the Cosmopolitan Park skate park when police responded to a call about minors drinking and smoking Nov. 11 because he had been issued a prior one-year trespass warning. After claiming the alcohol was his, he ran from police into the woods.

Four days later, Hickem was found one mile away.

Hickem loved skateboarding and being with his friends.

"I think it was a release for him, to release some of his built-up emotions," Barbara Hickem, his grandmother, said. "He could just take it out by skating, jumping, and when he landed, it was a rush. He brought something to himself to make himself feel embraced and empowered."

He was good at it, his cousin, Talejah Scott, said. He could do tricks that would launch him in the air.

"People would be out there telling him, 'Hey, you know you did good.' It felt good to hear that you were doing something good," she said.

One day, Scott and Hickem were sitting on the front porch. He had his skateboard and was attempting to do a trick. His aunt's brand new car was parked nearby.

Scott tried to tell him he needed to stop before he hurt himself or the car. Before she could finish talking, the skateboard flew into the car.

Hickem came in and fessed up to what he had done — though his aunt would have known, since he's the only skateboarder in the family.

"He has a little trouble he had been into, and nobody's saying he was perfect," his father said.

His family thinks that he ran because he didn't want to get arrested and wishes they had known sooner that he had ran from police.

"We couldn't look for him, if we didn't know he was missing," his father said.

Hickem's father talked with him on Friday afternoon, before the police came in contact with him. When his father didn't hear from Hickem on Saturday, he figured he would see him Sunday, he said. When he didn't see him Sunday, he still thought he would see him at some point.

But then people started saying that they hadn't seen Hickem since Friday. It would have been a different story if he had known that, his father said.

Hickem also loved being with his friends. He was a junior at Hickman High School. Although he didn't like school work, he liked to go because of the things that were in school: girls and buddies. His girlfriend, Libby Bopp, was with him at Cosmo Park the day they encountered the police.

"He was always happy. He didn’t have a reason to be upset about anything," said Dylan Westhoff, a friend of Hickem's since seventh grade. "If somebody else was upset, he would try to make you feel better."

Hickem touched a lot of people and had a wide array of friends, his grandmother said.

Scott said she hopes Hickem's friends learn from his death that it's easier if you stay and accept responsibility.

"In his mind, he thought he was going to go sit in jail," his father said. "He damned sure didn't want to do that because then he wouldn't be free to do the things the wanted to do."

"And enjoy the day!" the family chimed in.

Hickem is survived by his mother, Mary Elizabeth Green Logan; his father, Herman Hickem and his wife, Tammy Redden; maternal grandparents, James and Mary Green; paternal grandparents, James and Barbara Hickem; three brothers, Cray Logan, Gary Gibson and Brandon Redden; a sister, Latisha Hickem; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members.

Services will be held 1 p.m. Saturday at Grace Bible Church, 601 Blue Ridge Road.

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james john November 19, 2011 | 12:40 p.m.

I feel terrible that a young man is dead. And the encounter with the police causes one to be suspicious about the actions of the police.

But I have to be perfectly honest here but as a father, why would you allow your child to get away with breaking your rules? Clearly he had a problem with respecting authority.

Sorry, but this is not "normal" teenager stuff.

It is just as normal to get a teenager involved in something more productive like a job, music, some sort of activity that takes up time. Skateboarding then would be a priviledge and not an ultimate life dream. Because if that was his life's dream, then he lived it and his life ends with him living out his life's dream. But I don't think that any parent would want that to be the ultimate life's work of their child.

As far as the marijuana and alcohol. I can read between the lines here. And I know some of the behavior of some adults around this young man. If marijuana and alcohol is a part of the lifestyle of the adults and people openly spoke and drink in front of the children, you are conveying the message that it is okay to break the law. The fact of the matter is that all weekend, people who love this young man will be drinking and smoking marijuana on behalf of this young man. You cannot expect to be adults and not have this affect your children.

This is really a norm for so many families. Addictions to alcohol and drugs makes all people co-dependents of one another. There are more and more families and their kids who are suffering. And the people who suffer the most are the children. Our society doesn't openly allow it, but it is becoming so normal to raise children to think that it's okay to aim so low. And sadly, limited goals equals a limited life.

(Report Comment)
Donald Barton November 19, 2011 | 1:28 p.m.

My Heart goes out to the families@Friends affected By this Young Mans passing...I worked with a wonderful mentor and teacher Named Cora Hickem LPN years ago...Any relation?

(Report Comment)
takeisha Walker-Kennedy December 1, 2011 | 8:29 a.m.

I'm like so deeply in my heart missing my best friend. Ever since i been at this school I have been making new friends day by day but I miss James Hickem and I wish he was still here at Hickman high School because this school is boring without seeing him here at school. I love you James and you're the only person that I miss forreal because you was basically the first person that I ever talked to. Everybody is missing you. R.I.P James E. Hickem III :(

(Report Comment)
mike mentor December 1, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.

Please retire to your glass house...
The article mentions drinking alcohol and smoking with friends at a park. It didn't say what they were smoking. It doesn't say anything about drugs other than they are still trying to determine if their was drugs in his system.

You take that information and go on a tirade against addiction to alcohol and drugs and adults openly using drugs and alcohol in front of this kid and the worthlessness of skateboarding when compared to, "some sort of activity that takes up time", as if skateboarding would be worse than anything else that would take up time??? If you do know this family and know all of this stuff why bring it up now in the paper? If you don't know this family, what high horse are you on?

My condolences to all the family and friends. Sometimes the spirits that burn brightest go to soon and are missed the most...

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