Malibu Mourns Loss of Stephen Hicks

J. Stephen Hicks died Wednesday at his Malibu home on Point Dume. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage children.

J. Stephen Hicks, a well known photographer and 19-year Malibu resident, died  this week. He was 58.

A celebration of life will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Sunset Restaurant, 6800 Westward Beach Road in Malibu.

The family and close friends released the following obituary:

Stephen was a force of life -- adventurous, inquisitive, passionate, inexhaustible, kind, loving, empathetic, and most importantly, a true and lifelong companion to all those lucky enough to cross his path. His wit, insight, compassion, and boundless love will never be forgotten.

Stephen was an acclaimed photographer, an avid traveler, surfer and mountain biker, who called his beloved Malibu home for 19 years. He was a loving husband and a committed father, whose happiest, most contented moments were spent with his family, wife Lani, son Ryder, 18, and daughter Kailee, 15, who survive him. But Stephen came most alive bobbing in the early morning surf in Malibu and Mexico, mountain biking in the coastal trails above his home, photographing nature in all its glory, power and mystery.

Stephen was a model friend. He listened, advised, aided and was always there when anyone needed him. His character was strong, unwavering, unimpeachable. He never judged but he always loved.

Stephen had a restless soul and an ever-growing curiosity about the world. From Bhutan to Africa, South America to Asia, Europe to Mexico, he sought new cultures, new experiences, new canvases for his unequaled nature photography. His passing has left an immeasurable void in those who loved him. But all our lives are richer and more complete for having been touched by his life and love.

The son of the late Joseph Wendall Hicks and Fletta June Stroud, Stephen was born in Denver, Colo. He was a 1972 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and attended the University of Colorado. In the late 1970s, he found his way to Santa Barbara, where he attended and was graduated from the Brooks Institute, with a degree in photography.

In lieu of flowers the family is requesting donations be made to either the Surfrider Foundation or Heal the Bay or The John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

Share your memories of Stephen Hicks in the comments and your photos by clicking “Upload Photos & Video.”

Bob Perkins DDS February 10, 2013 at 04:25 PM
I am devastated by this loss....my heart goes to Kailee, Ryder, and Lani. I didn't know Stephen as well as Kailee and Lani but the little time I spent with him was notable. He called me out of the blue and tried to inspire me to ride with his mountain biking group. He said he would loan me one of his bikes. I had a broken wrist at the time and couldn't take him up on that but he apparently was one of those who tried to share his passions and enrich the lives of others. He was a high energy guy who clearly made you feel more alive when you were with him. Kailee and my son have been close friends for a few years and I know how very close she was with her father. I know her life will never be quite the same. I have had the privilege of getting to know Lani as well...I'll be there for you guys if you ever need me for anything!! you are in our prayers....
Steve Easton February 10, 2013 at 09:13 PM
The photographic world is loaded with people influenced by Stephen, a master of his craft and a truly incredible human. I've been in turmoil all week over this. I will continue to do your work as always until you tell me to stop. RIP JSH Steve E.
Alexis Crouse February 10, 2013 at 09:14 PM
You are greatly missed. You were always such a positive energy and wonderful father. Much love to Kailee, Ryder and Lani.
Jon Griffith February 10, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Stephen was always full of positive energy. I knew him growing up in Denver. He was always an inspiration to me and I was happy to spend time with him at a recent high school reunion. He wanted me to travel to Cuba with him. Cuba was not on my list of potential itineraries but that was who he was, always full of fresh ideas and ways to have fun. I am so sorry for Kailee, Ryder and Lani. Many are sending you Love and Blessings and I know Stephen is sending his love as well in those quite moments.
William S. Roberts, Jr. February 10, 2013 at 10:12 PM
I know that his glamour photography was superb! I'm happy to hear that his roles as a father and friend were also superb. WS Roberts
Mikke Pierson February 10, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Today a group of us met for the Sunday Mtn Bike ride that Stephen organized every week and celebrated his life. Merlin Clarke and Austin Jensen made a great sign that says "Hicks Trail" and we placed it just past the beginning of the trail. I've downloaded some of the pictures from the ride here. What is obviously when you hang out with a group of his friends or even people that just knew him in passing is that he had a positive impact of everyone he met. His energy and love radiated out to those that got near him. He had a way of making people's lives better. It is just a part of who he was. It is so great how the town has rallied around the family. Lani is so appreciative of the words and support. It really means the world.
Eileen Culligan February 11, 2013 at 02:04 AM
When we first moved here in 2000 I was hiking all the trails in Malibu. All of them were a bit too difficult for my young son Hogan. I often crossed Stephens path on the trails, and one day asked him to recommend a good hike for a young kid. He recommended the very top of Corral Canyon with its wonderful caves and climbing rocks. My family has had so many happy times up there since, with other kids, and families. I'll never go up there again without thinking of Stephen and his enthusiastic recommendation.
Eileen Culligan February 11, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Mikke, which trail is the sign on? I'd love to hike up to see it. Another memory comes to mind. Many times I would run into Stephen when I was with my hiking group. We would always have a nice hello to each other. My group commented that I seem to know so many mountain bikers. They laughed when I told them it was always the same I was saying hi to.
Jessica E. Davis February 11, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Thanks for sharing those photos Mikke. That sign "Hicks Trail" says it all.
Jessica Newman February 11, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Team Lani xx
Jessica Newman February 11, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Our family is overwhelmed with grief over this very special man, true friend, mentor. The story is that we moved to Malibu because of Stephen - after a dozen years of conversations with him, at a time when we were in near crisis, he told my husband "move her out of the gloom", and three years later here we are. Stephen loved his family so much and of all his accomplishments, they were his pride and joy. What I will miss is seeing his bright sun-washed face, and being able to, within a few emails be quickly at Sunset, or Bui, crusing the golf cart ("slow down buddy boy!"), or at the beach to touch base. From our 20s Stephen ushered us through to our 40s encouraging us in business, in family, in living life, staying positive -- he always believed in us as a couple and our time with him and Lani reviewing our lives and our goals, are treasured moments. We hold Lani and the kids dear to our hearts and we will all take care of them for many more years. Stephen, you touched so many people's lives and elevated ours, you are a gift, thank you. - Jessica & Derek
Steve Williams February 11, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Steve Williams I grew up with Steve in Colorado. We were best friends and he was the best man in my wedding. He was the ultimate friend to have as a kid growiing up. Steve and our Hallcraft group of friends shared many experiences as young boys growing up through high school. He was always up for a game of one on one or 21 on the basketball court, playing football or just hanging out. We lived and died with the Broncos and grew up going to games when they weren't any good. He had a love for life and living it to it's fullest every day. He was a strong, smart, and inspiring man. We'll miss you here in Denver Steve. I'll miss you. My prayers go out to Lani, Kailee, and Ryder.
Bob Perkins DDS February 11, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Wow, the more I think about this, and read these other accounts, I am reminded of what we all know, how our connection to this life is so tenuous and fragile...it can be severed in a moment. A wrong turn here, a misstep there... One minute an explosion of physical and emotional energy, empowering, educating, entertaining...and the next minute, it is all over. I heard Helen Reddy say one of the most profound things I have ever heard when asked how she wants to be remembered. She said, "I don't care if I am remembered at all, just as long as any good that I have done lives on". Here is to making sure that all the "good" that Stephen brought to us all, lives on......
Sirus Ahmadi February 11, 2013 at 08:35 PM
I will miss you Stephen. I am grateful for the time we spent together. R.I.P my friend. Sirus
Martina warren February 11, 2013 at 09:43 PM
I'm greatly shocked by the news, you were so full of life, and you will be greatly missed. You were always my favorite photographer, you knew exactly how to treat the model to get the best out of her, and always treated them with the utmost respect. My heart goes out to his wife and children. RIP Martina Warren
Mikke Pierson February 13, 2013 at 06:08 PM
The ceremony to celebrate Stephen's life will be held Saturday, Feb 23 at 4PM at the Sunset Restaurant at Westward Beach. The family hopes all of his friends will attend.
Casandra Hoffman February 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM
I met Stephen during an extremely volatile time in my life, knowing him taught me to see the beauty and photograph it in my mind. His zest for life is unparalleled and there will never be another like him.
Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo February 23, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Siempre me gustó su expresión, su cara. Le seguí por sus fotos y siento enterarme de su partida. Gonzalo.
Bob Perkins DDS February 24, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Yesterday, a powerful memorial for a fallen warrior......Mikke Pierson (who I do not know) gave a beautiful testimonial to a man he loved dearly....the thing Mikke said that perhaps will most stick with me, was a sentiment that he attributed to Stephen regarding how he felt that he lost a lot of friends....due to his honesty. Stephen, apparently felt that honesty was worth losing friends over, he felt like he owed it to them to give them nothing less....well, in the end, he didn't lose too many at all cause that place was packed like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Stephen apparently held his friends to high standards....he pushed them to greater heights. Even in death you (with the help of Mikke) have "pushed" me. That's greatness!!!"
Peter Yeh May 03, 2013 at 11:07 AM
Read the awful news about his passing today! Have met him once, when he came to visit me in the Amsterdam office of Penthouse magazine. What a nice and great guy. over the years we have published countless sets shot by him, and I have always considered him one of the best glamour photographers in the world!!! What a loss at such a young age! Peter Yeh, Penthouse the Netherlands


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