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St. Joseph's Catholic School honors assistant principal

BRADENTON — He taught Saint Joseph’s Catholic School student Molly Klabik how to tie her shoes.

He helped Molly’s classmate, Triston Krebs, around school when the boy broke his leg.

Another classmate, Shelby Sinagra, got a nosebleed the second day of school, and he kindly escorted the girl to the nurse’s office.

Just a few memories of the late James E. Sicks, the school’s assistant principal who died April 13 after battling cancer for seven years.

On a cool, sun-splashed morning Friday, St. Joseph’s students and staff congregated on their school playground off 26th Street West for a prayer and dedication ceremony for Sicks.

“Today we gather to honor him and celebrate his many good works in our school community,” principal Robert Siccone told the group of more than 350 people, including Sicks’ wife, Joy Sicks, and their daughter, She’ Hicks. “Let us all fill our hearts with the happiness that Mr. Sicks brought to our school and our lives over the past 18 years as we pay tribute to him today.”

Sicks, 65, of Sarasota, started at the school as a teacher and guidance counselor in the early 1990s and eventually was promoted to the position of assistant principal.

During Friday’s celebration, school leaders named the playground after him.

A metal bench bearing a plaque with the inscription “The James E. Sicks Playground” now rests next to a swing set.

“Mr. Sicks carefully planted seeds all around our school, especially this playground,” said Dean Klabik, a teaching assistant and extended day program coordinator at the school. “Seeds of hope, forgiveness, kindness, friendship, respect and faith were just a few of the varieties he planted. On the playground each day, Mr. Sicks tended to his garden of children, always pointing out the potential of each and every child, always seeing the best in each child. Let us celebrate Mr. Sicks’ good works every day and be good stewards of his garden.”

At the ceremony’s conclusion, members of the fourth-grade Recorder Band played “Amazing Grace.”

Sicks was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003.

“After that, the doctors gave him 18 months. But he was a fighter,” Siccone said, who added Sicks worked full time up until about a month before he died. “Most people were surprised to learn that he was even sick. He was always upbeat and full of energy. He had a marvelous gift of seeing the best in everyone.”

Saint Joseph Catholic Church’s activities coordinator, Jennifer Scheehan, called Sicks a man with an infectious smile.

“He was the kind of person if you would walk into a room, no matter how bad your day might be going he’d make you smile,” Scheehan said.

Rebecca Sharp, who graduated from the school last year and is now enrolled at Manatee High School, attended Friday’s celebration.

“I’ve known him my whole life, and he’s done so much for my family,” said Sharp, 14. “I will never forget him.”