ELKO — A longtime Elko artist, writer and museum director died Thursday in Salt Lake City following a stroke.
Howard Hickson, 82, of Elko is remembered largely for his role in the history of the Northeastern Nevada Museum—but his friends and family also recall his sense of humor.
“Howard was always ready with a joke or a comical story based on fact,” said his youngest son, Patrick Hickson. “He said he didn’t have a serious bone in his body but he was a perfectionist in his work.”
Howard Hickson came to Elko in 1969 when the Northeastern Nevada Historical Society hired him short-term to get the museum started, according to Nick Halton, his friend of 36 years. Howard Hickson then became the museum’s executive director until his retirement in 1993.
“He had the vision to create exhibits,” said local historian Jan Petersen. “... It was important for him to give the community and local artists a place to display their work.”
According to his family, Howard Hickson raised more than $1.1 million for new construction and remodeling of the museum in Elko. Petersen said he took Northeastern Nevada Museum from a “little homegrown museum” to being nationally recognized and accredited.
Prior to coming to Elko, he was the curator of exhibits at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
Petersen said Howard Hickson put together slideshows on the history of many communities and presented them to museums, schools and organizations throughout the state. He also produced the Nevada touring photography exhibition.
“That was very well-received,” Halton said.
He was also an original founder of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to Free Press archives.
As an artist, Howard Hickson did pen-and-ink, sculpture and paintings—including some exhibit backgrounds still on display at the state museum, Petersen said.
“He was an incredible artist,” she said. “He had vision.”
Howard Hickson was also a gifted writer, she said, publishing “Mint Mark: CC — A History of the U.S. Mint in Carson City” and “Elko, One of the Last Frontiers of the Old West.” He also contributed to the Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. A series of short historical pieces called “Howard Hickson’s Histories” can be read on the Great Basin College website.
“He was involved with his community,” Petersen said. “He loved his community as much as he did his family.”
Howard Hickson received several awards and recognitions. In 1994, he was honored as a Distinguished Nevadan by the University of Nevada Board of Regents. Former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller declared Feb. 24, 1989, to be “Howard Hickson Day.” The Nevada Department of Museums and History gave him an award for outstanding achievements in preserving Nevada history in 1985.
He also served on the Nevada State Council of the Arts, the Northeastern Nevada Historical Society and the Rotary Club of Elko.
“He would go out of his way to ensure things were a success,” Petersen said. “Everything he did was a success.”
Howard Hickson was born in 1932 in Huntsville, Alabama. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952-1956 as a statistician, combat reporter and illustrator. He married Jane Ellen Green and had three sons.
After his retirement from the museum, he became director emeritus and remained active in community organizations such as Rotary Club. Howard Hickson also continued with his photography and writing. He and his second wife, Terry, moved into the Highland Manor assisted living facility last year after their house was burglarized. Terry Hickson died shortly thereafter.
Howard Hickson suffered a stroke last week and died after never regaining consciousness following surgery to his brain. He is survived by his sons, Ken, Andrew and Patrick, and his stepson, Ian Parmiter — and their wives.