Cover photo for John Hicks's Obituary
1930 John 2023

John Hicks

April 9, 1930 — January 15, 2023


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John W. Hicks of Madison, age 92, passed away peacefully with his wife at his side on January 15th, 2023, at Agrace Hospice Center in Fitchburg after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.

John was born on the family farm in Wiota on April 9th, 1930, to Charles and Bessie (nee Doering) Hicks. He and his siblings, Marilyn and David, grew up on the Red Rock Farm on the Pecatonica River where he learned to drive the tractor at age 7. In 1948, John and his family moved to the Hicks Clover Leaf Farm in rural Shullsburg. He graduated from Darlington High School in 1948. He earned his B.S. and master’s degrees from UW Madison in electrical engineering. John met the love of his life, Joan Zwickey, on a blind date in Madison. He swept her off her feet and on to his Harley Davidson motorcycle. They were married in Monroe on February 21st, 1953. John and Joan lived most of their lives in Madison, and the last 64 years in their home where they raised their six children.

John loved his family, travelling, and adventure. As a family they took many camping trips around the country in their 1964 red VW minibus where they camped in a tent trailer. They always stopped to hike, visit many historical markers, and National parks. John enjoyed any activity on the water. On the Madison lakes, he spent many days teaching their kids to waterski and ride a very primitive wake board. He loved canoeing on the rivers in Wisconsin. Together, John and Joan provided rich experiences for their big family.

John worked for the University Physics Department in Madison as the Chief Design Electrical Engineer until his research office was destroyed in the Sterling Hall bombing. After which, the department moved to the UW Physical Science Laboratory in Stoughton. John had a brilliant mind for creating, designing, and building major research projects. He held two patents, one for an enclosed transformer motor apparatus in 1955 and in 1992 a mechanically actuated double crystal monochromator. His work at UW included projects for the National Accelerator laboratory, UW nuclear accelerator, and assisting the University of Denver building a high-altitude physics and astronomy research station on Mount Evans to study cosmic rays. John was a wizard with his tools and could fix or build just about anything.

John had a multitude of hobbies including computers, astronomy, and ham radios. He was active in Madison Space Place, Madison PC user group, and for many years was active in the ham radio club in Madison providing radio support for many running events.

John was devoted to Boy Scouting, and it was an important part of his life, even into his nineties. He served in many leadership positions all the way up to Commissioner. He was honored with the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor for an adult volunteer for his commitment to scouting. He made several treks to Philmont Scout Ranch

John had a passion for genealogy and the history of Lafayette County and was a board member of their society. He spent many hours tracing his roots back to England before the Mayflower. His research has been donated to this organization to assist others in their quest to learn more about their pasts.

John is survived by his wife, Joan, and their children Steve (Susan), Sue Koenig (Bill), Shelley Wilker, Scott (June), and daughter-in-law Jean Hicks. He’s also survived by 13 grandchildren: Shannon Hicks, David Hicks, Megan Brody, Andy Koenig, Michael Wilker, Ryan Wilker, Kevin Wilker, Justin Hicks, Erica Dziatkiewicz, Shane Hicks, Jenna Musil, Edward Hicks, Anna Hicks, and 10 great grandchildren.

John was preceded in death by two sons, Stuart and Spencer, his siblings, Marilyn and David, and his other siblings, Marion, Ruth, Betty, and Charles, all of whom died in infancy.

Funeral services will be at Cress Funeral Home 6021 University Ave Madison on Sunday January 22. Visitation with the family at 1:00-2:30 followed by a funeral service at 3:00. A private family burial will be in the Union Grove Cemetery in Darlington on Monday January 23.

There will be a Celebration of Life in Darlington at a later date.

Memorials to the Boy Scouts (Glacier Edge Council), Lafayette County Genealogy and Historical society, or Agrace are greatly appreciated.

John’s family would especially like to thank their home care providers and Agrace Hospice Care for their loving support and care.

Please share your memories at

Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Hicks, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, January 22, 2023

1:00 - 2:30 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Starts at 3:00 pm (Central time)

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