Remembering David Hicks

Outpourings of love are shared in tribute for this industry legend

 

The greeting card community is still reeling from the news that David Hicks, one of the industry’s real icons, sadly died on Friday (April 8), his life cut short by motor neurone disease.

With David having been so well loved and respected by so many all over the world, tributes are flooding in about the great man. Here PG Buzz shares just a few of them, with more to follow…

Above: A recent photo of David with Nicole
Above: A recent photo of David with Nicole

Nicole Mendelsohn, David’s wife, remembers meeting him for the first time, at a Brits night out convened during the New York Stationery Show, when she was working in the creative team of The Almanac Gallery.

“If it weren’t for Nick Adsett [then creative director of GBCC], I would never have met David. Nick took me along to a dinner in New York and I sat opposite David. We talked all night and we knew straightaway that there was a connection. I remember thinking that I’d met a real maverick, and I loved that about him.

Two a half years later we met again in my role as artist agent. We married four years later. I wish we could have shared more of our lives together, but I will be eternally grateful for the time I did have with him. David was a wonderful, kind, inspirational human and he will be in my heart and thoughts forever.”

Above: David with Mike Gray, who worked together for many years before Mike moved to Northern Ireland and set up M.E.G
Above: David with Mike Gray, who worked together for many years before Mike moved to Northern Ireland and set up M.E.G

Mike Gray, managing director of Irish distributors M.E.G Cards & Gifts

“It was circa 1990 that I first met David, we both remembered the meeting, at Athena in Park Street in Bristol. I was merchandising stock and there was a scruffy guy – jeans, T shirt and long hair – lovingly tending to his postcards. “Are you with The Really Good Card Company?” I asked, only for David to uncoil to his full 6ft something, thrust out his hand and with a beaming smile, proudly declare ‘No, I am The Really Good Card Company!’

Little did I know then, that five years later, I would find myself working with David and embarking on a friendship of a lifetime. I look back on those years as some of the most exciting of my life. I remember the unbelievably funny times we shared, working our socks off but partying equally as hard with a wonderful group of colleagues as David began to make his indelible mark on the industry.

Anybody who knew David would be well aware of his easy wit and love of a wind-up and, on more than one of the many business trips we would take together, my first job would be to buy replacement buttons for a shirt, shoelaces or even boxer shorts, as David had inevitably managed to hack into my luggage and wreak havoc with a pair of scissors.

Still, to this day, I don’t think he completely thought through the possible outcome of placing a 1kg bag of white vacuum cleaning powder in my luggage for me, in my blissfully unaware state, to take through customs at JFK Airport! Oh, how I laughed!

Above: A shared moment – at Mike Gray’s wedding, at which David was the best man
Above: A shared moment – at Mike Gray’s wedding, where David was the best man

“David’s love was design: he always aimed to be progressive, shake things up and make an impact, which he certainly achieved whether through his great card ranges (as well as the ropier ones), his leadership, his willingness to go against the grain or just the friendship and inspiration he offered to anyone with whom he came in contact. If asked for advice, he would always willingly oblige.

Away from his work, David’s passions were travel, photography, enjoying fine food and the company of his friends – of whom he had many in all corners of the world. Anybody who was lucky enough to be one of those friends will be remembering his cutting wit, generosity and his interest in what others were doing and, if any of his friends were ever in trouble or needed help, he was always the first to spot that something was wrong, step in and offer assistance if he could.

I was privileged to be one of those friends. He was my best man, my best friend and I’m remembering the man that grabbed life with both hands, his infuriating stubbornness, the cutting humour, his generosity, his immeasurable kindness but, above all, his love for life and people. Thank you, my friend – the world has been a better place for you being in it.”

Above: Miles Robinson (third right) with David, Nicole (second left) and PG’s Ian Hyder, Jim Bullough, Jakki Brown and Jen Hyder at a meet-up a couple of weeks ago
Above: Miles Robinson (third right) with David, Nicole (second left) and PG’s Ian Hyder, Jim Bullough, Jakki Brown and Jen Hyder at a meet-up a couple of weeks ago

Miles Robinson, co-owner of House Of Cards

“A tribute to David Hicks…where does one start…?! A very tall man who conformed to no rules but his own. He broke new and very successful ground in many areas of greeting cards and gifting concepts, while also launching a fair few rubbish ones.

He was the most charismatic, generous and determined chap, who didn’t suffer fools and did it all with an amazing sense of humour! He became a true friend and I’m very thankful to have learned many things from him and been grateful for the many experiences we shared.

David was an ordinary bloke from Manchester who ended up being an extraordinary human being that created so much and touched so many lives – I think that all adds up to him being a Great Man or, to use a favourite phrase of his, ‘it’s a beautiful thing’.”

Above: David with Warren Lomax at a Henries event
Above: David with Warren Lomax at a Henries event

Warren Lomax, chairman of Max Publishing

“What can I say about my great friend David Hicks that hasn’t already been said? He was a visionary, the driving force behind the reformulated Greeting Card Association and its first president.

He was a creative genius, responsible for so many iconic card ranges and gift products – Happy Hefalumps, Not Particularly Orange, Edward Monkton, Bright Side and the famous Man Tin, to name just a few.

But what mattered most for me were the memorable times we shared together for the last 30-plus years. Our 40th, 50th and recently 60th birthday parties, our fun-filled trips to the US, Ireland, Amsterdam, Paris, Spain and Frankfurt, the industry football team we created with Mike Gray, our party times at The Retas, The Henries, in Harrogate and Birmingham. So many great memories! I feel a part of me died with David’s departure.”

Claire Williams and Karen Wilson, co-owners of Paper Salad

“How can we possibly begin to pay tribute to such a great man? He was so brave and we can all learn from how he dealt with such a cruel diagnosis and illness, with such dignity.

Here are our thoughts in the hope that we can do him justice…

It was around 20 years ago that we first encountered David Hicks, we were both in awe of him and we had yet to start Paper Salad. Soul was our most favourite card company, we loved everything about it – the bright colours and the painterly illustration – it was so ahead of its time! It’s fair to say that we were a little intimidated by David but, over the years, we developed a good friendship and mutual respect, we think!

David always was the epitome of cool. He was his own man, tall and imposing with a dress sense all of his own. We loved to see what his take on The Henries’ theme would be and he never disappointed.

We really started to get to know David in the last 15 years or so, on many meals out, mainly at trade shows where David would take care of all the wine choices. We left him to it, his monocle would appear as he pored through the wine list, and we enjoyed some great choices over the years. The evening always ended with a stickie. We endured some of our worst hangovers and some eye-watering bar bills too!

He will be sorely missed by so many. He was an icon in our industry. We will both miss his sharp wit and of course the many arguments we had about football. RIP David, we will both remember you forever.”

Above: Celebrating David’s 60th birthday last spring, (right-left) Paper Salad’s Claire Williams and Karen Wilson with PG’s Warren Lomax, David, and sales agent Rosie Trow
Above: Celebrating David’s 60th birthday last spring, (right-left) Paper Salad’s Claire Williams and Karen Wilson with PG’s Warren Lomax, David, and sales agent Rosie Trow

James Mace, sales and marketing manager of The Art File

“David Hicks was very much a father figure to me, and akin to a godfather for most of my life due to being very good friends with my dad Ged for many years. My first memory of him was witnessing a lanky, long-haired Hicks storming back and forth down the wing at a charity football match when I was about nine years old.

His knowledge of our industry, the creative industry and running successful publishing businesses, were invaluable to me (and I’m sure for many others). Over many a laugh at dinner tables across the world I have had the honour of drinking, dining, and staying with this very unique and inspiring man over the years, and he will be very much missed by us all. I shall raise a grappa to him at any given opportunity…a legend to the very end. X”

Bev Cunningham, founder of Ginger Bee Studios and co-founder of Creative Card Collective

“When I heard that David had booked his ticket for Switzerland, I knew I had to let him know how I felt and what he meant to me – an opportunity you don’t get when you lose someone suddenly. I told him how much I had always enjoyed his company, conversation, observations and humour, that I have admired his approach to business and, of course, his creativity, although I said wouldn’t comment on his taste in t-shirts though!

I reminded him of something he’d said to me when he was closing down Really Good – he said he was frightened of becoming irrelevant, something I dismissed as male ego at the time but, since, have come to understand what he meant. However I assured him that he would never be irrelevant, for he has touched the lives of so many people and would be leaving behind a body of fantastic photography, and that these things alone make him very relevant and immortal.

I said I was truly sorry that this awful disease had descended upon him, that there was no rhyme or reason to life but I hoped he could take comfort in the fact that he had led a more interesting and varied life in his 60 years than most do in a lifetime. ‘Thank God I didn’t save everything up until I retired, and made sure I did a lot and had fun,’ he replied.

I told him I admired the way he’d grabbed every opportunity that came his way, carved his own good fortune and lifestyle but most of all done it his way, even at the end. His response to which was to modestly say he ‘was just a bloke who knew when to bow out’!

I told him I’d miss him and, although a non-believer, I hoped I was wrong and that there is a hereafter, so that we would meet again. A non-believer too he said ‘who knows what lies ahead’.  None of us knows for sure what lies ahead for David or any of us, but we do know what an incredible legacy he has left behind to the industry and to his friends.

Thank you, David – thank you for the laughs, advice and wonderful memories, it was a real privilege to know you and to call you a friend.”

Above: Having a laugh last December, Daps Dackombe (left) with David, and The Art File’s Ged Mace
Above: Having a laugh last December, Daps Dackombe (left) with David, and The Art File’s Ged Mace

Esther and Daps Dackombe, former owners of Blossoms & Bows

“We have been privileged to have known David for approaching 30 years. We have so many lovely memories of times spent with him in London, Ireland, Holland, New York, Spain, Oxford, Bath, and at our home in Norfolk.

He certainly knew how to throw a great party – in fact his parties were legendary! We recall the amazing fancy dress parties, there were even pole dancers at one of them! Then there was the fabulous time we watched the boat race from his boat with lots of bubbles and nibbles.

There are so many industry memories to recall including how, when he first started in the industry, he blagged his way into getting a space at the back of the greeting card hall when there was a three-year waiting list!

David truly was one of a kind and so very different to anyone we have ever known but we got on really well and he confided in us on several occasions, and asked our advice when deciding to close his business.

We have enjoyed many delicious meals he prepared for us and the evenings usually resulted in us all having rather a lot to drink followed by a heavy hangover the next day! We loved spending time with him on his boats first in Hammersmith and, latterly, in Wandsworth.

David stayed with us in Spain on several occasions and we had the opportunity of getting to know the lovely Nicole on their last visit in October 2019. On David and Nicole’s goodbye visit to us just two weeks before he died, I (Esther) was determined not to break down but, as they were leaving, David and I had a really big hug and I said ‘I’m going to miss you. I love you’, David replied ‘I love you too’, the floodgates then opened. We love Nicole too who has been so very brave and so supportive to David.

Daps wrote to David and Nicole after their visit: ‘Thank you both for making the time to visit us. David, as we all know your remaining time is precious and to spend some of that time with us is really appreciated. You have always lived your life your way and continue to do so by deciding when it will end.’ David replied that we were high on his list to visit before he went, which made us feel really special.

The more David took the mickey or insulted you, the more he liked you and there was always lots of banter going on between Daps and David.

I had a dream last night and in it, Miles said ‘David’s now on the next leg of his journey’ and I said ‘no he’s not – he’s already there’. David was very much loved and will be missed by so many.”

Above: Esther Dackombe (right) with David and PG’s Jakki Brown at a creative weekend run by artist Richard Barrett in Sheffield. Debbie Wigglesworth, then of G.F Smith, was also there and took the photo.
Above: Esther Dackombe (right) with David and PG’s Jakki Brown at a creative weekend run by artist Richard Barrett in Sheffield. Debbie Wigglesworth, then of G.F Smith, was also there and took the photo.

Paul Taylor, managing director of Cardzone

“While our thoughts are with his wife and family, we will never forget what an incredible inspiration David was for the entire industry, and how courageous he was at the end, dealing with his awful illness.

David was an amazingly successful businessman at a time when the industry was very challenged. He will be sorely missed by so many people he touched during a 35-year career in the industry.”

Top: David and his wife Nicole Mendelsohn in the private jet they took to Switzerland last week

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