EGMONT KEY -- A lawyer and Anna Maria resident believed to have drowned in a boating accident off Egmont Key was described as a great, hard-working man who wanted to make an impact on the lives of youth.
Henry Hicks, 60, died Saturday afternoon while apparently trying to retrieve an anchor for the 27-foot Black Watch boat 3 miles west of Anna Maria Island.
As of Monday afternoon, an autopsy has not yet determined the cause of death.
"The case is going to remain pending for now," said District 12 Medical Examiner Russell Vega. "It does appear likely to be a drowning, but we have all the usual tests that we like to perform and make sure that we can rule out any other things and identify contributing factors before finalizing the case."
Hicks, originally from North Carolina, specialized in real estate law in the Tampa Bay area for more than three decades. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 and earned his law degree from Tulane University Law School in 1979.
In 2001, Hicks opened TitleMark Title Insurance Agency in Tampa, which provides title insurance services, including real estate transactions and closing services. Hicks was a member of the Attorney's Title Insurance Fund, Florida Bar Associa
tion, Real Estate Trust and Probate Section, Hillsborough County Bar Association and Bay Area Real Estate Counsel.
At one point, he also found time to serve as head basketball coach at St. John's Episcopal School in Tampa.
"It was really hard to hear all that," said Conner Fenlon, who played for Hicks as a seventh- and eighth-grader. "You never want to see someone lose their life that way. It's unfortunate... You kind of just have to pray for his family and everyone associated with him."
Fenlon said he found out about Hicks' death from his mother.
After Fenlon graduated from St. John's Episcopal School in 2004 and moved onto Tampa Preparatory School, he recalled Hicks continued to attend his high school basketball games for support. It meant a lot to Fenlon, now 24 years old and soon to graduate from the University of South Florida with a master's degree in physical education.
"Growing up in middle school, you never really have a bond with anyone," he said. "Basketball is something I shared with him."
It has been years since Fenlon spoke to Hicks, but he recalled his former coach as being good at managing games and "putting in the right guys at the right time."
"He taught me a lot about teamwork and that you can't do everything by yourself," he said. "You have to call on other people to help and you get called on in return."
Baryl Martin, public information for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the FWC is still investigating Hicks' passing.
"At 4:15 p.m. (Sunday) we were notified and dispatched to the area approximately 3 miles off Anna Maria regarding some sort of fatal incident," Martin said. Four FWC officers helped retrieve Hicks' for transport to the U.S. Coast Guard Cortez station and then to the medical examiner's office.
"At this point, the incident appears to be a possible drowning," Martin said, adding Hicks and another boat occupant were retrieving the anchor when the accident occurred.
According to Vega, tests will be run to rule out natural causes or intoxication in Hicks' death. He confirmed a routine toxicology test is being conducted.
"Injuries do not appear to have played a role here," Vega said.
Fenlon tweeted a photo of himself Sunday with his old basketball teammates with the caption: "R.i.p. to my middle school basketball coach. Coach Henry Hicks... Prayers with his family at this time." In the blurry photo, Hicks is shown behind 10 players, one proudly holding up a trophy. The photo was from Fenlon's eighth-grade championship game capping an undefeated season.
Fenlon said Hicks also taught a lot of life lessons.
"I was only in middle school, but he showed me there's more to life than basketball," he said. "He was someone who was very hard-working, who really helped out the youth. He wanted to make an impact on children's lives."
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.