GALLIPOLIS — A trick-or-treat tradition continued on Third Avenue in Gallipolis this year with “good apple” Derek Henry continuing to honor a former teacher who passed away from cancer.
Henry, a 2019 graduate of Gallia Academy, now studies education at the University of Rio Grande. For the last five years, Henry and his family have given away fresh apples to trick-or-treaters in front of the home of Henry’s former teacher, the late Ann Sickels.
Sickels was one of Henry’s favorite teachers, first at Grace UM Church for Sunday School and then at Washington Elementary. She fought a battle with cancer and passed away in 2015. Sickels was known for giving away apples at Halloween to trick-or-treaters outside her home on Third Avenue. It was said she did this to try and “teach” healthy eating habits.
Besides the apples, Sickels made an impression on Henry.
“I remember she’d always be in a happy mood, smiling no matter what as she was battling through cancer,” Henry said. “Still, she’d come to school with a smile on her face.”
Henry said he felt Sickels made it a point to make sure all her students were doing well in school and in life. He previously said, he felt a connection with her through a shared love of reading. That connection continued after Sickels’ death when five years ago, Henry simply told his mother Janice Henry, “I need a bunch of apples.”
When Janice asked him to explain, he told her, “I want to hand out apples at Mrs. Sickels’ house.”
Janice said at first she was skeptical and told Derek he couldn’t do it out of respect for possibly upsetting Sickels’ family. But, like most teenagers, Derek had thought ahead and had already cleared his idea with Sickels’ daughter.
In five years, Derek has only missed one night of trick-or-treat at his “apple cart” and that was only because he attended a National FFA Convention while at Gallia Academy. Still, his parents made sure the apples were on Third Avenue the one year Derek was not.
Each year he continues to contact Sickels’ daughter for permission and she, in turn, makes sure the porch light is left on for him. This year, he arrived with 500 apples and they were all gone by the end of trick-or-treat.
Derek has noticed that in addition to trick-or-treaters remembering his late teacher (along with their parents and her former students), they now remember him from year to year because of those apples.
“I happily embrace the title of the boy who gives away apples,” Derek said.
As for why he keeps returning to Third Avenue on trick-or-treat night, Derek said, “I’m just a huge person for tradition. Its become a habit I’ve been doing since high school…as long as I’m able and here, I’d like to keep that tradition going.”
Derek and his parents split the cost on purchasing the apples and the trip to pick them up has become its own fun, family tradition.
“It’s all fun, it’s hard to choose one great thing about it…it’s better to give than receive. You feel better about yourself when giving rather than just taking.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.