Kathleen “Kay” Ruth Locke, 81, died on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at the Ohio Eastern Star Home in Mount Vernon after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She leaves behind a legacy as an active community member and a loving friend.
Born in Xenia, Ohio on Feb. 11, 1939 to James and Mary (Fiedler) Crawford, Locke cultivated a love for the outdoors and music at an early age. In high school, she played flute in her school band. Always drawn to nature, she earned a degree in outdoor recreation at the University of Toledo. She had four sons from a previous marriage—Michael, David, Jeffrey and Daniel—prior to meeting Benjamin “Doc” Locke, whom she married in 1977.
As Doc was attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kay was the administrative assistant in the university’s Department of French and Italian and was beloved by her co-workers. She joined Doc in Gambier when he became an instructor of music in 1984 and her love of the community grew quickly. She had a long history of working in both the administrative and academic sides of campus life and was well loved by her colleagues. From the Office of the Registrar Office to the Department of Dance, Drama and Film, Kay continually stepped in whenever an employee was unable to work. In addition to holding many positions at the College over the years, Kay was an active member in the Community Choir and played the flute in the Knox County Symphony Orchestra, both conducted by Doc. She and Doc also became big supporters of Kenyon’s women’s basketball team, sometimes traveling to see away games to make up for any they missed during Community Choir rehearsals on Wednesday nights.
Outside of Kenyon, Kay was a volunteer teacher and naturalist for the Gorman Nature Center in Mansfield, Ohio, where she learned about botany and birds. Kay’s love of the outdoors extended into a love of traveling, specifically to the western national parks. The cherry on top of her love for the natural world came when the Lockes traveled to Africa, where she insisted on a safari tour among lions, leopards and rhinos.
During their time in Gambier, Kay and Doc helped raise two grandchildren, Amber Krabach and Jim Myers, the children of Kay’s sons. Both graduated from Mount Vernon High School and grew up in Gambier.
When the choir began going on tours, Kay would accompany as the “tour mom,” as Doc put it, helping out when members were hurt and gauging the choir’s sound in each of the different venues. “We were a team,” Doc wrote about Kay’s involvement in the Chamber Singers tours. “She was a nurse in emergencies, and although she wasn’t trained as a conductor, she had sung for Robert Fountain [a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison] and could speak to me in each of our various venues: she could comment on pitch, tone, and/or deportment. She was my extra set of ears!” Generations of Chamber Singers would watch her expression in the crowd, trying to gauge if they were doing well or not. She brought a much-needed level of comfort to both the students and Doc.
It was only after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease that Kay became unable to join the tours. As she battled her illness, she continued to observe choir rehearsals as she once did as the tour mom. “Parkinson’s could only slow her down, never stop her!” Doc wrote.
The Kathleen “Kay” Locke Community Service Prize in Music was established in 2015. Presented annually on Honors Day, is it given to a student or students “who have provided outstanding service to the College community through their musical activities.”
In 2019, Doc commissioned the composition “Beloved,” from Kenyon alumna Andrea Daly ‘06, specifically for Kay. Originally intended to be based on a Shakespearean text, Daly decided to draw from Chapter 7, lines 11-12 of the Song of Songs, a section of the Hebrew Bible. The passage is a call to one’s love: to spend the night in a countryside village and travel to the vineyards when the vines have budded and the pomegranates are finally in bloom. Daly included several technical “Easter eggs” in the piece which Kay would be likely to recognize after her years of listening to the choir and gauging if they had performed them just right.
The song made its debut during the Chamber Singers 2020 tour, but the annual live-recording concert in Rosse Hall could not be held due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, the choir organized and recorded a virtual performance of the piece, which can be viewed on Andrea Daly’s YouTube page. Dozens of Chamber Singers from across the country came together to sing about her. “The fact that her song can live in Chamber Singers forever is amazing,” wrote former Chamber Singer Anna Kahle ’20.
Kay’s first-time hearing “Beloved” was the first time the choir had performed it in front of anyone. It was also the last time she attended a live Chamber Singers performance.
Kay’s devotion to almost all aspects of College life made her a source of inspiration to all she met. She will be missed by friends, family, and the generations of students, staff and faculty who witnessed her devotion and kindheartedness.
After a private family service, Kay was laid to rest in the Kokosing Nature Preserve, surrounded by the outdoors she so loved. A memorial is planned to be announced for a later date.
Kay is survived by her husband; four sons, Michael, David, Jeffrey and Daniel Myers; six grandchildren, including Amber Krabach and Jim Myers; three great-grandchildren; sisters, Constance Bergquist, Sallie Spears and Margaret Sarracino; and several nieces and nephews.