2021 Grand Marshals: Martin and Darlene Hicks (Martin’s Grocery – Merrill, Oreogn)
The Klamath Basin Potato Festival is proud to announce the 2021 Grand Marshals: Martin and Darlene Hicks. Many of you know them as the former owners of Martin’s Food Center in Merrill, Oregon. The Hicks have been dedicated long-time supporters of both the Klamath Basin and the Klamath Basin Potato Festival. The Hicks are community-minded people who have helped countless organizations and individuals, giving of their time and assets. Martin has coached Little League, girls YMCA basketball, is a past president of both the Merrill Fire Department and Merrill Lions Club and was a volunteer 911 dispatcher for over eleven years. Both Martin and Darlene volunteered as first responders and EMTs with Basin Ambulance. When community members stopped by for help with a fundraiser Martin always asked, “What can I do to help?” In fact, he has supplied the paper products for the Potato Festival’s free beef dinner for many years, in addition to donating gift certificates and purchasing raffle tickets from the queen candidates. This, along with their many hours of community service, makes the Hicks the perfect choice as the 2021 KBPF Grand Marshals.
Martin and Darlene both have long roots in the Klamath Basin. Darlene was born in Tomah, Wisconsin, and is a twin. She moved to Merrill when she was three years old with her parents Howard and Luella Babcock and eight brothers and sisters. She was raised in the community and graduated from Lost River. Darlene worked in the store doing the accounting since 1982, and for the most recent 25 years worked both at the store and for two different local physicians as office manager. She has enjoyed supporting Martin and their commitment to the community in any capacity needed. Darlene has retired but still works part-time from home doing the medical billing, and she helps out at the doctor’s office when she is in town, and they need a little extra help. She enjoys quilting and sewing in her free time.
Martin was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the third child to Dick and Letty Hicks; his siblings are Brent, Linda, and Greta. Martin’s maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were both steamboat captains on Upper Klamath Lake. He comes from a long line of grocers on his paternal side. His great grandfather owned seven wholesale grocery warehouses called Hicks Grocery Service. His father owned sixteen stores, Richard’s Food Centers, along the I-5 corridor from Phoenix Oregon to Sutherland Oregon. Martin moved from Klamath Falls to Grants Pass in sixth grade and graduated from Grants Pass High School. He then attended SOU and worked in his father’s grocery stores where he learned the retail food industry before purchasing his own store in Merrill.
Martin purchased Martin’s Food Center (formerly TC Griggs Store or Rieger’s) in Merrill in October 1981 from Allen Carter. The community involved the Hicks and always accepted any changes they made to the store during the time they owned it. Martin and Darlene contribute their success to all the great employees they have had over the years and to the community that supported them. Martin believes that when you have a good year you should give back and support those that helped make it possible. They owned Martin’s for thirty-nine years before selling the store to Kelley Phillips in August of 2020. Martin said, “I couldn’t have asked for someone better to take over. The Phillips will be an asset to the community and will continue to support our community.”
Martin and Darlene have been married since 1991 and have four children, Amy, Brian, Megan, and Brad. They have seven grandchildren, Tyler, Kameron, Brayton, Aedan, Briley, Michael, and Tristan. Since retirement, they have enjoyed traveling the country in their motorhome and visiting their family and friends. They have been to Alabama twice, along with Washington, Oregon, and various places in between. Their only agenda is spending time with their kids and grandkids and meeting up with old friends, traveling to whatever location necessary at a moment’s notice.
The Klamath Basin Potato Festival would like to thank the Hicks for their many contributions to our community. People like them—and our many other contributors—are what have allowed the Klamath Basin Potato Festival to continue into its 84th year. Martin and Darlene Hicks have helped make the Klamath Basin such a great place to live and raise a family.