‘Live like you’re living:’ Remembering Ann Marie Bick

Plenty of people talk about making the world a better place. Ann Marie Bick actually did it.

“Ann Marie firmly believed that everybody has the ability to do good in this world,” said her husband, Rob Bick. “If you met her, you could not help but be influenced in a positive way by her.”

Ann Marie, mother, wife, friend, fighter, entrepreneur, advocate, motivational speaker, writer, passed away Dec. 7 from metastatic breast cancer. She was 55. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter Taylor Stonecypher, her son 2nd LT. Steven Stonecypher, USAF, her father Al Emmi Sr., her brother Al Emmi Jr. and his wife Ana Marie Clare-Emmi, her aunt and uncle Carol and Joseph Emmi, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A native of Solvay, Ann Marie started AMS Models and Talent in 1999. It was one of the first agencies to use online booking, putting it well ahead of its time and helping the business to grow into the largest commercial talent agency in Upstate New York.

As an entrepreneur herself, Ann Marie was a supporter of other women in business; in 2002, she helped launch the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Symposium, which led to the opening of the WISE Center in 2006. She served on the organization’s Board of Advisors for more than seven years.

“[She was] always at the ready to serve as a mentor to any woman, any time,” said current WISE Director Joanne Lenweaver. “She was a true leader.”

In addition, Ann Marie served on the board for the Women’s Business Opportunity Council (WBOC) and as a frequent contributor to several media outlets, including Syracuse Woman Magazine.

Ann Marie was also an active philanthropist. Among the many charities with which she worked were Maureen’s Hope, Ophelia’s Place, and Hope for Heather, founded by her good friend Frieda Weeks. In 2018, even as cancer ravaged her body, Ann Marie was named Hope for Heather Person of the Year for her humanitarian efforts.

“She was an amazing woman,” Frieda said. “AnnMarie was the person who was always there for you… regardless of whatever she was going through. Right up until the end of her journey, she was always willing to reach out to help anyone.”

Ann Marie was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. After a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, she thought she’d beaten the disease, but in May of 2013, just four months after she met the man who would become her husband, she learned that the cancer had returned — and it had metastasized to her bones.

Rob Bick said metastatic breast cancer like Ann Marie’s often overlooked in discussions about breast cancer.

“A third of the women that get breast cancer will get metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is terminal. It cannot be cured,” he said. “Metastatic breast cancer is relatively unknown in comparison to breast cancer, and it’s exceptionally more dangerous. People need to know about it, they need to be screened for it, and they need to continue to develop better treatments to help people live longer.”

At first, Ann Marie showed next to no symptoms. But the last two years were a different story.

“Probably a dozen visits to the hospital and emergency rooms. A dozen different procedures. Jaundice, kidney bags, bile bags, two rounds of chemotherapy, immunotherapy,” Rob said. “But even as of October, you wouldn’t really see too many effects of any of it. She was doing everything she wanted and living her life the best that she could.”

That was typical of Ann Marie, he said.

“Ann Marie [believed] everything you do should have a positive impact,” he said. “If you met Ann Marie, she’s one of those people that just made you a better person just for spending 10 minutes talking to her.”

Rob hopes to carry on his wife’s legacy — first, he’ll be taking over as president of AMS Models, where he said things will continue without a hiccup for the business’ clients. But moreover, he plans to start a foundation in Ann Marie’s name to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer.

“It’s such an ugly, relentless disease that you can’t even put it into words,” he said.

The foundation’s name will reflect Ann Marie’s favorite saying.

“Ann Marie used to give motivational speeches, and one of the big hits of hers was, why wait until you’re dying to live life?” he said. “You should live while you’re living. So it’s going to be called the Live While You’re Living Foundation.”

Meanwhile, her friends and loved ones will continue to carry her with them.

“She was always there for me on every holiday, special day or anniversary to remind me that she would always be there for me,” said Frieda Weeks. “Ann Marie will live on in my heart forever.”