BOUNTIFUL — Having exceeded the life expectancy of an average American male by 23 years, Dr. Lloyd Hicken seems positively unimpressed by the accomplishment.
“I never expected to live this long,” Lloyd says with a good-natured shrug, deflecting any attention to his longevity other than to agree he’s 101 at the moment, and will turn 102 in less than a month on April 1, something he’s planning on being present for.
Dr. Hicken is clearly a live-for-the-present, roll-with-the-flow, don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff-and-it’s-all-small-stuff kind of person — which may in itself be a commentary on lasting a century and then some.
By his own reckoning, there have been 13 times in his 101 (almost 102) years that he could have, probably should have, perished. Beginning with when he came into the world at 5 1⁄2 months, or barely half the normal gestation period.
Only later in life, when he became a family doctor/OB-GYN who delivered more than 3,000 babies, did he begin to fully appreciate the odds he had to overcome just to see his first birthday, let alone his 101st.
Then there were the duodenal ulcers that almost killed him, twice, the surgery that cut out half of his stomach, the severe tracheitis he experienced at 97, not to mention all the close calls when Lt. Hicken flew 27 missions as a B-24 bomber pilot in the Pacific during World War II.
Even before going off to war, in 1939, Lloyd dodged a bullet when he was called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe, with headquarters in Brussels. He was days from shipping out when the Nazis invaded Belgium and he was reassigned to Brazil.
“You name it, we’ve been through the mill,” says Lloyd.
And yet, he remains.
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I am talking to Dr. Hicken at the invitation of Steve Olson, a chaplain for South Davis Community Hospitals.
Dr. Hicken, as Steve explained, is a bona fide celebrity at South Davis. A charter member of their Hall of Fame, if they had one.
If it wasn’t for him and a handful of other civic-minded physicians, the original South Davis Community Hospital wouldn’t have gotten off the ground back in the 1950s.
At the time, Bountiful was a community of 5,000 residents with a small medical clinic where they did baby deliveries and not much else.
There was no ER, no operating room. Anything serious meant a trip to St. Marks in Salt Lake City.
Dr. Hicken and his wife of 69 years, Alice (who died in 2015 at the age of 94), had moved to the Bountiful bench after Lloyd returned from the war and graduated with his medical degree from the University of Utah. Most of their neighbors were deer. The new Dr. Hicken did house calls more than office calls. One time when the roads were bad he skied down Orchard Drive to deliver a baby.
“That’s one I won’t forget,” he says.
But in truth, there doesn’t seem to be much he does forget. He remembers clearly seeing the need for the area to have better medical care. Banding with other doctors, he not only founded South Davis Community Hospital, but was also among the crusaders who later on brought about Lakeview Hospital.
Fast forward to 2020, and the South Davis Community Hospital campus includes everything from extended hospital care to assisted living to advanced respiratory and specialty pediatric care, while Lakeview continues to thrive as a traditional hospital.
“Without Dr. Hicken’s handprints and heart and soul behind this, and others like him, none of this would be here,” says Steve Olson.
Lloyd, as you might suspect, downplays any praise directed his way for the excellent state of medical care in south Davis County. Just doing his job, he’ll say. “All I ever wanted to be was a country doctor, and that’s what I was.”
He retired from his medical practice at 74, which seemed old at the time but now seems like he was a young whippersnapper. He’s filled up the years since continuing to build up the community and doing church work. It’s his faith that he credits with sustaining him through thick and thin, and shaping his worldview to look at trials as an integral part of living.
“One of the big problems with people is they won’t look at life with a clear mind,” he says. “If they do they’ll see that troubles and trials are experiences that will do you good. Don’t become embittered by defeats — and you’ll have defeats — but anchor your life in your creator and accept all it has to offer. Get up every day and move on. Every cloud is followed by a day of brightness.”
Spoken by a man who has watched that pattern repeat itself for 101 going on 102 years.