Kenneth “Ken” Hickel, 93, of Williston, North Dakota, passed away Sunday morning, July 9, 2017 at the Mountrail Bethel Home in Stanley, North Dakota.
Kenneth George Hickel was born July 21, 1923 in Wolf Point, MT to Jolie and Lois (Sayles) Hickel. He grew up on the family farm near Ray with his brothers, Donald, Joseph, Dan and sisters Louella and Mildred. He graduated from Ray High School in 1942.
He left Ray for Tacoma, Washington where he learned to weld and was employed in a shipyard. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corp on December 4, 1942 and completed boot camp in San Diego, CA, then shipped out to New Zealand where he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. In his platoon of 60 men, he was one of only 3 who fired as an expert rifleman. He went into combat at Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and landed in Okinawa, where he was wounded by shrapnel through his helmet and received the Purple Heart. He received 4 Asiatic Campaign medals with 4 bronze stars, a WWII Victory medal, and his unit received 2 Presidential citations. He was among the first troops to land in Nagasaki, Japan after the bombing.
He returned to North Dakota in 1946.
On December 3, 1948, he married Lillian Kopsland at First Lutheran Church in Williston. They moved to Oregon, where they built and operated a pool hall and lunch counter. He did carpentry, drove logging trucks, worked in saw mills, and dam construction. They returned to Williston in 1953 where he worked for Vizna Ready Mix, Farmers Union Oil, and then went to work for Getter Trucking until retiring in 1986. He was a life member of the 2nd Marine Division Association and Disabled American Veterans. He was also a member of The Sons of Norway.
In earlier years, he liked to hunt, fish, and travel for work and pleasure, logging over 3.5 million miles in his estimate. He enjoyed spending time at his brother’s farm driving tractor and combine at harvest time. He built a rock tumbler for agates and enjoyed making wine, working on family genealogy and reading. He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved visiting with everyone.
He is survived by Lillian, his wife of 68 years; daughter, Marcia Hartsoch of Tioga; son Richard (Wanda) Hickel of Kalispell, MT; daughter, Cheryl (Bill) Buchanan of Tuscaloosa, AL; grandchildren, Heidi (Jarrod) Vigness, Nancy (Gary) Conlee, Douglas (Katrina) Hickel, Jeffrey Hickel, Alexandra Smith, Oliver Smith, Elliot Smith; and four great-grandchildren, Emily, Abbey, Zachary, and Madeline.
He is preceded in death by his father, mother, and sisters, Ione, Shirley, and Louella Allen.