November 16, 1912 - Hickey's Family History Tied To Notre Dame

By John P. Hickey, Jr. '69


We are very excited the Hickey family is willing to share their family history with us. Their family has deep ties to South Bend and Notre Dame. To read more in depth about the family, follow along on their blog. -IrishTrpt07


I was interviewed for this article [in May] after the ND Alumni Association received the obituary of my Dad, John Patrick Hickey, who died on February 24 this year. The family is very proud of our association with the University since 1849.

John P. Hickey - ND Baseball - 1943
John P. Hickey - ND Baseball - 1943

Familys History Tied to Notre Dame

By Scott Frano 13
Hannah Storm Journalism Intern

Many family histories are inextricably linked to Notre Dame, with generation after generation attending and graduating from the University. But there may not be a family with deeper or more storied ties than the Hickey family.

Twenty-eight members of the Hickey family have graduated from Notre Dame. With that many graduates, the easiest way to start tracing the familys connection to the University is to start at the beginning.

Louis Etier came to Notre Dame in 1849, seven years after the founding of the University, from just north of Montreal. According to John P. Hickey, Jr. 69, family legend goes that Louis Etier was recruited by none other than the founder of Notre Dame himself. He changed his surname to Hickey shortly after his arrival because the mostly Irish workers found Etier difficult to pronounce.

Family lore says that Father Sorin recruited him on one of his many trips between Notre Dame and France, through Montreal, he said. We dont know if that was in fact true, but there was quite an extensive French community here. Whether he met Father Sorin or not before, he knew that there were opportunities there, and he came down at about the age of 19.

Louis Hickey was one of the last of the original pioneers to come to northern Indiana to assist with the building of Father Sorins vision. Hickeys obituary, published in the Nov. 16, 1912, edition of Scholastic magazine, details the impact he had on the fledgling campus.

He cut the first road from Notre Dame to South Bend, and spent forty active years in building Sacred Heart church and other University buildings, the obituary reads. He helped place the big bell in its present place in the tower of the church, and his name is inscribed on it. On account of Mr. Hickeys close friendship with the founder of the order, and out of respect for a life well spent, the huge bell was tolled Tuesday morning.

Louis Hickey is Johns great-great-grandfather. Johns grandfather, Thomas Hickey, was also very close to a Notre Dame legend.

In 1923, none other than Knute Rockne 14 moved his wife and two sons to 1006 Saint Vincent St., right next to Thomas and Kate Hickeys household. The house was built by the Thomas L. Hickey Construction Company, which also constructed more than 20 buildings on campus, including Zahm, Breen-Phillips, Farley, St. Liam Hall, the Fire Station, and the Power Plant. Hickeys sons, five of whom graduated from Notre Dame, worked on those buildings in the summer.

The Hickey and Rockne families became very close. Thomas Hickey was Rocknes sponsor at his Baptism. Rockne often played football with Hickeys young children. Knute and Thomas were so close that Thomas received a secret pass to Notre Dame practices.

My grandfather got the secret pass every year to attend the football practices in the fall, John said. He was a regular visitor .... Even after Rockne died, he had passes from Hunk Anderson 22 in 31 and 32. He was very closely connected to the team .... He attended every home game from 1900 to 1956.

Thomas Hickey often travelled with the team to road games. At one particular game, the opponent wore uniforms very similar to Notre Dames, confusing the Irish players. Hickey and one of the team managers drove to a store and found different colored jerseys, put numbers on them, and gave them to the players, rescuing a difficult situation.

John P. Hickey 44, 47 B.S.C., Johns father, was the sixth of Thomas and Kates eight children. He had the amazing fortune to know Rockne personally, play basketball at South Bend Central High School for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, and be taught theology by President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., 39.

My father corresponded annually with Wooden around Christmastime until Woodens death in 2010, John said. Hesburgh knew the Hickey family well. He would often go either to my grandfathers house for dinner before he became president or up to my grandfathers cottage at Magician Lake in Michigan, with other C.S.C. priests.

Hickey played baseball at Notre Dame and received a varsity monogram, as well as the 1943 Byron V. Kanaley Award for excellence in academics and athletics. Between graduating in 1944 and earning a B.S.C. in 1947, Hickey served as a naval paymaster in Pearl Harbor from 1944 to 1946, during World War II.

Upon Hickeys death in February, a prayer card from Rocknes funeral and Thomas Hickeys 1927 secret football practice pass were found. John was surprised to discover the items in his fathers wallet.

It was just incredible seeing the Rockne funeral card and the secret pass, he said. We knew our families were very close, but I didnt know he kept those.

John himself graduated from Notre Dame in 1969. He said the familys connection to Notre Dame is very important to him personally and to the family as a whole.

Its very, very strong, he said. Notre Dame has a special place in our hearts. Weve got many, many family members (more than 60) buried out at Cedar Grove Cemetery, going back to Louis Etier Hickey. He is out there, his son is out there, I have two uncles that are buried out there .... Its a heartfelt connection.

Despite how connected his family was to the University, Hickey never felt any pressure while growing up to attend Notre Dame.

I just considered it an honor, he said. I was the first grandson (of Thomas and Kate Hickey) to attend and graduate from the school. We lived in Boston, so it was a great opportunity for me to connect to the Hickey family in South Bend, which I didnt really grow up with. I would take some roommates and walk to 1004 Saint Vincent St., and my grandfather would regale us with stories about Notre Dame and Rockne.

There is currently one Hickey family member, a junior, at Notre Dame. When she graduates, she will be the 29th Hickey family member to graduate from Notre Dame, adding yet another chapter to the familys storied Notre Dame history.

Link to ND Today article




Keywords: hickey, baseball, john hickey, thomas hickey, father sorin, sacred heart church, bell, knute rockne, zahm, breen-phillips, farley, st liam hall, fire station, power plant, baptism, secret pass, hunk anderson, football, john hickey jr, father hesburgh, john wooden, pearl harbor, world war ii, nd today

Posted On: 2013-09-09 00:15:02 by John P. Hickey, Jr. '69

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