Noel was born in 1925 at Fimiston on the Lake View Lease in the goldfields of WA, now disappeared into the Super Pit. The family moved to Perth soon after his birth and finally settled in McKenzie St, Wembley, in 1929.
The seeds of Noel’s Marist vocation were nurtured during his 5 years as a boarder at St Ildephonsus’ College, New Norcia where he had received the Lord Abbot Scholarship. He excelled as a student and sportsman. His under 16 880-yard WA record was set at the inaugural State Schoolboys’ Athletic Carnival of 1940 and lasted for some years.
In January 1942, Noel took a 5 day train trip from Perth to Sydney. He received the Marist Brother’s religious habit 75 years ago at Mittagong in NSW. Australia was at war and Noel had already signed the papers for conscription. In July 1944 at Parramatta Marist, he began his long and distinguished teaching career, mainly teaching senior students, and including time as a school principal.
Noel gained most of his qualifications the hard way while in full time ministry. His B.A from the University of Western Australia included the Lady Hackett-Moulden prize of 3 guineas for Latin I.
Then in 1983 he began a very fruitful period of his life for the next 18 years in PNG and the Solomon Islands as a teacher and later as the District Secretary and Bursar. Finally, in 2002 Noel returned home to Churchlands, but not to retire.
Noel’s interests are very eclectic. He faithfully completes the crossword in The Australian each day and he works on the Jumble Word in The West Australian each morning, not being content until he has discovered a large number of words including the often-obscure nine-letter word.
Until a little over a year ago, he could still be found riding his bicycle over large distances around the local area, but now, in acknowledgement of his 93 years, Noel has graduated to using a gopher. He is still working each Tuesday with the students in the Newman College Education Support. For 10 years he spent 2 hours each week visiting patients in the Head Trauma Unit at Shenton Park. He is a faithful supporter of religious and cultural events at Newman College and has a keen interest in classical music.
Noel is a very faithful recorder of events for our archives, which are an excellent record for future historians. He has also used his computer skills to record the lives of family members.
His first task each morning is to check the obituaries in The West Australian for the names of relations, friends and ex-students of New Norcia.
He has a great love for his family members and friends that is reciprocated. Now in his 94th year, Noel is moving a little more slowly with the aid of a walking stick or a walker for longer distances, and athletics records of his teenage years are a distant memory. Br Sean Sammon, the former superior general of the Marist Brothers, wrote of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers: “Suffering tempered him, setbacks strengthened him, determination drove him, and grace helped him move beyond his circumstances. He was an apostle to youth and an example of a very practical Christianity.” I believe we can also apply these words to Brother Noel Columban Hickey – 75 years a Marist Brother.