There are always people in communities like ours whose work and charity goes unrecognized. Each month, The Lakefront will bring some needed attention to these individuals; these unsung heroes, who live and work all around us.

Local historian Ina Hicks was chosen as our first unsung hero.

We quickly realized while researching Ina Hicks for this article that it would be difficult if not impossible to capture just how important she is to the fabric of Friendsville and the community at large. Here is a brief summary of the life-long contributions she has made, comments from fellow residents and answers to questions we had for Ina in her own words. Among many other things she is a historian, genealogist, mentor and teacher, storyteller, poet, quilter, talented baker and cook, Quaker, mother of seven, grandmother and great-grandmother, and a decades-long friend to many many people. This all in addition to being the official librarian, genealogist and historian at the Friend Family Association of America for several decades. She is currently the genealogy librarian at the Friend Family Heritage Museum, and a Friendsville Library Quilter, playing a central role in fundraising for the new library.

Born in 1930 along the Youghiogheny River in Friendsville, MD, Hicks came of age in her beloved town. Ina is a direct descendant of John Friend, the founder and namesake of Friendsville. She grew up along the bank of the “Yough” River in a house adjoined to her father’s restaurant and barber shop on Morris Ave.

In recent years, Ina was nominated for the Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award, which she won in 2018.

Longtime Mayor of Friendsville, Spencer Schloshnagle said “Ina is an absolute gem to our community. A fascinating lady to talk to. My favorite is watching young children listen to her tell a story; you could hear a pin drop. She is such a wonderful influence to our young people, a mentor to so many and a woman with so many talents.”

Carolynn DuBose, art teacher at Friendsville Elementary for 25 years said, “Ina was a mentor to me the moment I came to Garrett County as a new art teacher in the late 1970’s. She was such an inspiration to me and the rest of us who were in the arts at that time. We were kindred spirits, especially when it came to the art we both created. It’s hard to put into words how much she influenced me and many others.”

Patty Wells concurs. “She is a living resource of information, wisdom and reverence for our community – the sacredness of the land, the people and history of Friendsville and Garrett Country. Ina’s passion for colorful clothing is paralleled by her exquisite cooking – magnificence!! Ina has a long term perspective of Friendsville and Garrett County that is valuable beyond words”.

Ina in her own words…

Is there any advice you can give those who would also
like to do more for their community?
“I would tell them to be curious. To be curious about where they live. To be curious about the people they live amongst. And eventually to be curious about the rest of the world.”

Is there any person or group of people you feel
needs to be heard that needs more attention?
“A couple years ago the Garett County Health Department had a grant for a program where they went into various communities in Garrett County and asked what they could do to make for a happier and healthier community. They had a meeting up at the theatre, and I heard somebody say there that Friendsville had a “messy mix of people.” So, I thought to myself we aren’t communicating between the messy mix here in Friendsville. The people who’ve lived here forever, the river people, the people who have come here to retire. They don’t always communicate. I had an idea for a newsletter that would go out monthly to all these different people in our messy mix.”

Do you feel like an unsung hero?
“Well, I don’t feel like a hero I just follow my interest and my desires. That doesn’t make me a hero. I was so interested in the history. I gave an interview to Mike Snyder last spring, and I told him that when I was a little girl saying my prayers at night, you know, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Afterwards I would say please help me God to show my love for the people of Friendsville. I figure that recording peoples lives is the way I’ve been given. That’s how I show my love for the people of Friendsville and beyond. I still get calls from people that I’ve helped from all over.

There’s a woman in Kansas who called me over Christmas time. She is descended from Captain Andy Friend, one of the first settlers in Friendsville. She came to Friendsville and brought her father who had his birthday in Friendsville. She brought her husband and one of her sons and his wife and a few other people. They were all descended from Captain Andy Friend. I took them all to Confluence, Pennsylvania, and showed them where Andrew was buried with a plaque in the center of town. She stayed in touch ever since. It’s not something heroic, it’s just something I wanted to do.”

What would you reccomend to someone new to the area
to check out in Friendsville?
I would tell them to check out the new series of trails around the area and to check out the Yough River.

Is there anyone you consider an unsung hero?
Freda Sines. She and Vernon just closed their store, the S&S Market. She helped so many people. She kept a running tab for people who couldn’t pay. She did it for me when things were really tough. When I broke my foot, I couldn’t go anywhere. I called her to see if one of the kids could deliver. Freda came herself, and when I asked for the bill she laughed and said that she wouldn’t charge me.

Another time a guy came from out of town and was in line behind someone putting groceries on a tab. He asked Freda if she did things like that all the time. “Not unless it’s needed,” she replied. That guy sent her a check for $5,000.00 to cover people’s tabs.

Thank you to Ina and all of our unsung heroes.

Written By Michael R. Fratz, Collen DuBose