Robert Wick, who guided Wick Communications for nearly six decades, passed away Thursday, January 13. He was 86 years old.
Wick’s life was a mix of the simple and the complex – found in his art, his public service and his enjoyment of print.
Soft-spoken but sharp, Wick was as passionate about battling a foundry in Douglas as he was about hand-watering thousands of seedlings he had planted on his remote lands in the Mule Mountains of southeastern L. ‘Arizona – the latter’ a cathartic process that drew me more intensely to nature, its magic and its wonders.
Wick and his brother, Walter, bought their uncle’s stake in Wick Communications in 1965, after his death. Their father, Milton Wick, and their uncle, James Wick, started the business when they acquired the family’s first newspaper in 1926 in Niles, Ohio.
Family members remain active in the business, with Robert’s son, Francis Wick, serving as president and CEO, and Walter’s daughter, Rebecca Rogers, serving on the board.
Walter and Robert Wick assumed full ownership of the business, which grew to 27 publications, in 1981, following the death of their father. Wick Communications, under their leadership, today has interests in 11 western states, including Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.
The brothers were inducted into the Arizona Newspaper Association Hall of Fame in 2004. Walter Wick died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer.
It was a family business and Robert Wick learned it from the bottom up. He and his brother swept the floors of the newspaper office in Niles, Ohio, then worked in various departments to learn the ropes.
He followed the family tradition and studied journalism at Kent State University, where he also played baseball and dreamed of playing professionally. At the same time, he falls in love with art and discovers a talent for it.
He recounted his first serious venture into art in a 2019 newspaper article as he prepared for an exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
Wick said his aunt was visiting over Christmas during his freshman year in college and noticed him doodling with Play-Doh. “Carving a portrait of my husband,” she asked.
He said he couldn’t do it, but she insisted. He took pictures of his uncle, then went back to school and asked the art department for advice. They taught him how to make an armature, the framework of a sculpture, and he got to work.
“It came out better than anything in the class,” he said. “I was so stunned, I didn’t know I had that in me.”
It shouldn’t have been a surprise. At 5 years old, “my father taught me to draw with volume”, he says. “In first grade I was drawing in three dimensions, and in fourth grade I was aware of Frank Lloyd Wright and trying to design ‘futuristic architecture’.”
As a teenager, he put art aside until he rediscovered it in college.
Wick earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and fine arts from Kent State University and an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, one of the nation’s top art schools.
He then taught sculpture and drawing at Kent State and the State University of New York, Fredonia. He and Walter Wick opened the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State in 1984 in memory of their sons.
Robert’s 17-year-old son, Stanley, was killed by a drunk driver on June 30, 1980. In a tragic coincidence, Stanley’s death came seven years to the day after Walt’s son Tom Wick, was also killed in a car. accident.
For over 50 years, Wick has used a combination of bronze sculptures infused with living plants to convey his message of our oneness with the Earth. He had first experimented with plants in art in the late 60s.
“I put a piece of ivy in the crack,” he said of a mask he was making. “I saw ivy as a sign of creativity, others saw it as death, others as life. I liked how he created another layer of meaning to the head, the artwork. From then on, I could no longer imagine creating sculptures without living plants, trees or any kind of vegetation.
The technique has turned heads in the art world and he has exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, Austin Museum of Art, and Tucson Museum of Art, among others. But her favorite place was to show her art in the botanical gardens “because of the scenery and the wonderful flora. The sculptures really seem to belong to such environments with the trees and plants growing from the sculpture.
“We tend to think of evolution as biological, but it’s a process toward greater complexity,” he said. “This art is trying to show that we are connected to nature, and we need to know that, be aware of that and what that means to us.”
But art has never ousted the journalist in it. He found himself producing the editorial pages of the Williston (ND) Herald in the 1960s, and in the 1980s was instrumental in closing the Phelps Dodge foundry in Douglas and limiting expansion from the foundry in Cananea, Mexico. He also pushed to reduce sulfur dioxide production by 90% at a new smelter in Nacosari, Mexico.
“We were able to change the skies over southern Arizona to be the cleanest in 100 years,” he said. “It would have been the most polluted landscape in North America without these changes.”
In the early 1990s, Robert Wick began a nine-year effort with architect Stan Schuman “visualizing my dream” – a house with primary forms, a pyramidal right-angled triangle and a trapezoid.
“Ultimately, I viewed the house as a work of art, much like the sculptures containing both living plants and trees that grow on the buildings and surround the sculptures with abundant life” , did he declare.
Eric Kardahl, CEO and president of the Amerind Museum in Dragoon, Arizona, met Wick in 2010. Kardahl, who is an archaeologist, said Wick invited him to his home and they quickly became friends.
“Such a wonderful, wonderful man,” Kardahl said of Wick on Friday.
Davis Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Ohio, met Wick in 1994 after Hassler won a poetry contest sponsored by Kent State University Press.
The award — appropriately titled the Wick Ohio Chatbook Award — was presented to Hassler at a dinner celebrating the poetry center’s 10th anniversary. He met Wick and his brother Walter at dinner and was immediately struck by the charisma of the siblings.
“They were both generous and interested in helping young artists,” he said.
One of his fondest memories of Bob Wick was the six summers he spent with other students at Wick.
“The students spent time talking to Bob and he shared his ideas for creativity,” Hassler said. “Their writing was inspired by Bob. He planted seeds of creativity and we carry them in our hearts.
Cynthia Conroy, founder of Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb and Bisbee Vogue Inc., had a close friendship that spanned more than two decades.
“Bob has created so many remarkable, beautiful and uplifting expressions in word, deed, design and sculpture,” Conroy said. “I cannot begin to express my gratitude for his influence on my life and my work. His humility, love for the Earth, and brilliant mind were always part of every conversation.
“I loved Bob Wick and will miss him dearly.”
Those who knew Wick said he was an outstanding philanthropist and entertainer, but they also remember him as a charismatic individual who made others feel important.
Karen Nicodemus, former president of Cochise College, met Bob Wick and his wife, Estellean, in 1998. She said they were generous with donations to the school, as well as their time.
He donated artwork to the school, but Wick was also interested in the education the local youth received.
Nicodemus remembers Wick as a kind man who cared about others.
“He made you feel important when he spoke to you,” Nicodemus said.
Arizona Community Foundation CEO Steve Seleznow said, “Bob was a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word. All of us at the Arizona Community Foundation have been especially honored to support his philanthropic vision and the Robert J. Wick Family Foundation.
Boys and Girls Club of Sierra Vista board member Kathy Orchekowsky said club leaders were saddened by Wick’s passing.
“Mr. Wick and the entire Wick family have been generous contributors to our club and the young people in our community. We have relied on their support for a number of our club’s campaigns over our 25 years of offering a safe place for children.