Merlene Hicks (nee Moore) was born in Dallas, Texas in 1935. The “official” birth certificate lists the date as November 12, but the last word on that subject belongs to Lucy Jane Moore (nee Lewis), her fiery mother, the Big Mama of future generations to come. Merlene was born in a time and place where Black births were often recorded erroneously or not at all, but Big Mama was not having it. She would not settle for any but the right birthday for her dimpled baby girl, letting it be known far and wide that she knew “good and well” what day she gave birth-November 13th. Thus, Merlene’s first story became a feisty inheritance, one of strength and determination. Her father, Sinnie Darius Moore, would bequeath to her another legacy; fierceness and an unbending will to make her own way on her own terms. Forged from motherwit and a force of nature, Merlene grew up clear eyed and clever, resourceful and destined to shape her life into a remarkable journey.
After graduating as a proud Monarch from George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places), Merlene attended Arizona State University where she pledged Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority. But her adventurous spirit took hold and she soon lit out for California, trading desert skies for ocean shores.
Merlene, or Merle, as she was lovingly nicknamed, was a charismatic and unforgettable character. She was a dynamo; a scrabble queen, who led a softball team and had a shelf full of bowling trophies. She was an incomparable cook and a talented seamstress with an endless supply of quotable sayings and a gifted way with words. People gravitated towards Merlene, and she accepted and loved them all.
In her new city, Sacramento she met good friends that she would keep for six decades; but the joys of her life in the following years were the births of her daughters Caren, LaFreida, Tammy, Crystal and Patricia who she raised with her adoring husband, James. Theirs was an enduring love and together they created a beautiful home filled with laughter and light.
Merlene and James moved the family to Seaside in 1976 where Merlene began work as a Monterey county court clerk until she retired in 1990. Everyone knew her. And she knew about everyone’s speeding tickets! But truly she was beloved at the courthouse by judges, lawyers and fellow clerks, famous for her desk plaque that said “lifestyles of the sick and tired”, a perfect example of her sharp sense of humor.
After becoming a widow in 1992, Merlene embarked on the next chapter of her story. She enjoyed her grandchildren, going to Chukchansi Casino with her best friend Gladys, and even learned to swim alongside Aunt Beulah in her 70s. She was a regular at Oldemeyer senior bingo and an avid Giants fan who never missed a game. Even as she started needing a walker and eventually a wheelchair, Merlene lived fully, eating cake, and singing; always the life of every party.
In the last eight years, bedridden, and having lost the ability to talk, Merlene remained a brilliant, beaming presence. Though she fought mounting health battles, survived Covid, and faced countless challenges, her spirit was never diminished. Yet, even the toughest warrior gets tired. On November 2, All Soul’s Day, Merlene took her final breath peacefully and surrounded with love. Her November 13th light burns on. Ever will she shine in our hearts.
Merlene was preceded in death by her parents, her husband James and grandson Jason Hicks as well as her cherished siblings John Mills, James Mills, Virgie Mills, Hubertine Ross, GM Witt Mills, Charles Mills, Charlie Mac Moore, and Charlie Mae Moore. She is survived by her sister, Lucy Jane Ridge of Dallas, Texas, 5 daughters, 10 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and a host of other relatives and friends who will treasure her memory.