George Bernard Hickner
George Bernard Hickner died peacefully at home at age 97 surrounded by family in Tempe, Arizona on November 6, 2021. George was born in Watertown, South Dakota on February 23, 1924, the son of Hazel and Frank Hickner. He is survived by 11 of his 13 children: Peter (Carol)
Hickner, John (Valerie) Hickner, Martha (John) Floberg, Joe (Gail) Hickner, Rosemary (Gerald) Leclair, Paul
(Paula) Hickner, Tom (Amy) Hickner, Ann (Brian) Jagla, Bob (Meg) Hickner, George Jr. (Jackie) Hickner, Patty Hickner, 31 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, and one great, great grandson, Texas James Hickner. George was preceded in death by his wife Mary, daughter Catherine and son James.
George was an athlete and a scholar. He graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN and received his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He worked mainly as an aerospace engineer, developing guidance systems for missiles and aircraft. He served as a fighter pilot in World War II in the Asian theater. After he completed his military service, he married Mary Martin, whom he met while attending St. John’s (she attended its sister school, St. Ben’s), and they moved to C
onnecticut where he worked for Pratt and Whitney. In 1951, they moved to San Dimas, California where he worked for Convair aircraft. In 1961, Mary and George packed 10 children into their two cars and drove to Michigan where George worked for Bendix aircraft initially, then Bendix Brake and Steering in South Bend, Indiana. George was one of the primary developers of anti-locking car brakes, now standard on cars worldwide. He finished his engineering career with Garrett AiResearch in Tempe, Arizona.
George loved sports. Having grown up in Baudette in the far north of Minnesota, he would reminisce about playing hockey on the frozen Rainy River using newspapers for shin pads. He was quarterback of his high school football team. He played varsity hockey at St. John’s University and, after graduation, coached the SJU team to its only undefeated season. George played hockey well into his 70’s, including three stints at Charlie Schultz’s Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament in Santa Rosa, California. He loved to take the family sledding and to build ice rinks in the front and back yards. All of his children caught the sports bug, participating in hockey, baseball, tennis, golf, skiing, cycling, diving, swimming and soccer.
He loved music as well, playing his cornet well into his 90’s. His wife Mary loved music, too, as do his children and grandchildren, many of whom are accomplished musicians.
His nephew, Matt, posted on social media this message about George: “With sadness I note the passing of my uncle George Hickner, my father’s last living sibling at age 97. George lived an extraordinary life by any measurement. He and his late wife of nearly seventy years, Mary, brought thirteen children into this world. All of their children excelled in whatever field they pursued whether it was medicine, engineering, or other fields. George was a fighter pilot in WWII and later as an engineer he designed missiles and anti-lock brakes and along with my father was a member of the who's who of American scientists.”
George was a man of deep faith who loved his family dearly. We will miss his great hugs and big smile that shone in his eyes. The family will gather in Tempe in his honor in the spring, and a memorial Mass will take place at that time.