2001-03-03 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

From The Artists Studio

By Susan Hartenstein

Leon Locke was a difficult man to know – I think he liked it that way. He had a reputation, with some, for wanting to print "bad" news about Rockaway. Yet he cared deeply about his community – enough to give tirelessly of his time and money to any number of its organizations and causes. Leon once told me, proudly, that "nice guys finish last." Yet this was the same man who was a loyal friend to be counted on for understanding, for honest advice and even, at times, for financial support. Leon seemed to delight in driving me crazy. He would push my buttons about any number of things regarding my column. I was never sure if he was serious or not. Yet he put few restrictions on the words in my column and even allowed a bit of insanity in it. He was a good friend of the cultural organizations of Rockaway, including RAA. In fact, at our last board meeting earlier this month, we unanimously voted to honor Leon as our "Community Leader of the Year." An active member of the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, he was also the founder of the Rockaway Museum. Who was this man, I would think – this enigma wrapped inside a puzzle? I began to understand that this was someone who didn’t want his image as a "tough guy" to be destroyed. He seemed to take a special delight in it. Heaven forbid people should know what a "softie" he could be.

It’s not easy being a newspaper publisher in a community as diverse as Rockaway. You will never please "all of the people, all of the time." You can even become, to some, a two-dimensional object of criticism. But Leon was a fully dimensional human being who cared very much about friends, family, his newspaper and the place in which he lived. He called it as he saw it, without compromise. I’m going to miss Leon. How strange it will be to go in with my photo each week and not see him, arms folded across his chest, leaning back in his desk chair. How strange not to hear his grunted hellos. I’m even going to miss his teasing. It reminded me that I take things too seriously sometimes.

An RAA friend of mine said that this feels like the end of an era. How true. The Wave will go on. Leon wouldn’t have it any other way. It will be different, of course. But Leon Locke will have left his mark on this community. Rabbi Weiss called The Wave a "letter from home" for the numbers of people now living outside of Rockaway, who still receive the paper. It’s that for the rest of us, too. You know. The letters where your mom tells you about the friends you grew up with and the new folks in town. And where your dad says stuff you don’t necessarily agree with and so you get angry. But you keep reading the letters anyway because they’re always interesting and because that’s how much you love your hometown. This is Susan Locke’s paper now, with Sandy Bernstein right by her side. It is their turn to leave their mark on this community. Susan is a talented and intelligent woman and I’m sure she will do a fine job. All of us at RAA wish them luck. Susan was one of the original members of RAA and the first writer of this column. To her, to Sandy, to Leon’s mother, Fanny, his siblings Susan and Bernard and the rest of his family and friends, we send our deepest sympathies.

Leon Locke brought The Wave into a new era, with changes and improvements in it as he went along. John McLoughlin, Kevin Boyle, Sandy Bernstein and others were responsible for much of this. But the buck always stopped with Leon. It is other’s turn now. But Leon will always be a part of The Wave and a part of the life of the community he cared about so much. That’s quite a legacy.


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