Thinking about people I’ve lost...

Posted 1/13/21

The relentless advance of COVID-19 into my family continued this month. No sooner had the doctors pronounced my cousin George fully recovered than they pronounced his granddaughter infected. That …

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Thinking about people I’ve lost...

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The relentless advance of COVID-19 into my family continued this month. No sooner had the doctors pronounced my cousin George fully recovered than they pronounced his granddaughter infected. That branch of the family lives on the other side of Charlotte. I pray for them every day.

I also recently learned this insidious virus has taken the life of my friend and former boss, A. Lynn Lockrow.

For those of us lucky enough to know him, he was not A. Lynn Lockrow, but THE A. Lynn Lockrow, a professor emeritus of design and production at Auburn University as well as the production manager of Paul Green’s outdoor drama “The Lost Colony.” I am proud to say I was one of the many hundreds of people who affectionately referred to him as “Daddy Lynn” when he was out of earshot.

I was lucky because when I was 19 years old he was the first boss I ever had.

Like young people everywhere I was bursting with that particularly sophomoric combination of energy and ignorance that made me a danger to myself and others. I was furious at a world that for some unfathomable reason refused to acknowledge me as the teenage genius I considered myself to be. Lynn brooked no guff; he had seen plenty of angry young men like me and was unimpressed. I was in complete awe of him, so when he said jump, I said how high.

It helped that he was a great hulking bear of a man, well over 6 feet tall and built like a linebacker: rawboned and broad abeam. But while he was physically imposing he never used his presence as a threat. I remember him placing his hands squarely on my shoulders to make sure he had my full attention before telling me how I had fouled up and how I could prevent it from happening again before he fined my already measly paycheck of $67.69 a week. After saying his peace, he turned me around with those same big hands to pat me on the back to send me on my way.

The fine was not an idle threat; it was a tool he used to get unruly young people like me to straighten up and fly right. When he chastised me I was crushed. When he praised me I was elated. But my hero worship did not affect him in the least; he had seen all that before, too.

Having never attended Auburn, I never studied under him formally. I could say he was a mentor, or a father figure, or a role model, and he was all those things, but most of all he was a teacher: the teacher who taught me how to teach myself, how to ask the right questions, how to anticipate potential problems and act on them instead of simply reacting after the fact. From him I learned questions often can have more than one right answer, but that some answers are better than others. He taught me how to talk around a subject, too, not as mere circumlocution, but as another tool to define a problem. Complex problems require sophisticated answers. The world is rarely black or white; the best answer almost always lies in that murky gray penumbra between two polar opposites. Even today, when facing an intricate task requiring sequential steps, I often wonder, “What would Lynn do?”

I last talked with him at length when I was writing my book “Backstage at The Lost Colony” in 2017. He had known Paul Green, the show’s author, and I wanted to know more about the show’s history, so I drove down to Roanoke Island to interview him. The publisher was paying for the hotel, and I supposed no one knew more about the show than Lynn. He talked, and I took notes. Towards the end of our visit he stood up from his dining room table, stretched, and said, “Wait here,” before lumbering off to another room in his house. He soon returned with an armful of books and pamphlets related to the show’s 80-year history.

“Here you go! I can’t find the monograph I’m looking for, but you’ll have it before you leave the island.”

“Lynn, I don’t want to take all your books!”

“All?” He paused for effect before continuing: “All my books? Dwayne, do you know how many libraries I have?”

Even after 35 years he was still teaching me.

Dwayne Walls Jr. has previously written a story about his late father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and a first-person recollection of 9/11 for the newspaper. Walls is the author of the book “Backstage at the Lost Colony.” He and his wife Elizabeth live in Pittsboro.


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