Dade Honors Vets With Parade: Plus a Special Tribute to Bill Lockhart

(Parade Photos by Alex McAlpin)

​The Dade Planet culminates its Veterans Day week lineup with this pleasin’ pictorial of Saturday’s Veterans Day parade courtesy of The Planet’s favorite photog, Alex McAlpin (right), whose artistic eye and savvy lens produced these pithy pics, providin’ a permanent presentation that preserves the parade for posterity. Thanks, Alex, great shots!

The Dade Marching Band was there. So were vets old and young, male and female.

It was a great parade, great pictures (thanks again, Alex McAlpin!) and a great tribute to veterans from a county that always holds them dear.

But on a personal note, I can’t end this week of tributes to veterans now departed without mentioning one who will always personify “Dade vets” and “American Legion Post 106" to me: Bill Lockhart. Here is a photograph I took of Bill in 2011. I found it recently as I went through my backup files looking for the veteran profiles I ran in The Planet last week. My snap is not as good as Alex’s but it commemorates one of my favorite Dade moments. (And you should see what it looked like before I cropped it! I had part of somebody’s arm at the right bottom corner, all by itself like in a horror movie.)

Bill Lockhart accepts Citizen of the Year plaque from Dade Chamber's Butch Raper.

This is the story I want to tell about Bill, Dade County and me. It was 2011, in I think June of the year. I worked then for the print newspaper in town and had been assigned to cover the annual Dade Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. That was supposed to have been in April but it was postponed because on April 27, three tornadoes ripped through the county, killing two people, destroying 60-odd homes and pretty much wiping out the south side of Trenton.

You may remember that.

Anyway. I got to the awards banquet and was feeling gawky and obstreperous. I was not the awards banquet type but an aging hippie writer with zero social skills, and I was still new enough at this kind of assignment not to have developed my current coping method, which is to go around snapping pictures and asking nosy questions. (That doesn’t make anybody like you any better but it does give a girl something to do. I now use this method in all social situations, even purely personal ones. It alleviates my social angst and if it makes me unpopular what else is new?)

Anyway! Practically the first person I met at the C of C awards banquet was Bill Lockhart, commander of American Legion Post 106 in Trenton. I knew him from having covered various community events around town. Bill was Mr. Community. Under his tenure the American Legion post was involved in practically everything that went on in the county, from Dade Days to the schools to the Trenton Arts Council.

But he didn’t look like Mr. Community! Bill was a large, cigarette-smoking, motorcycle-riding individual with a lot of tattoos. I used to get up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday mornings to finish my stories before deadline, and when I was addled with sleep deprivation like that I more than once got Bill’s name wrong, typing “Bill Armstrong” instead of “Bill Lockhart,” probably because of those big tattooed arms of his.

When I saw Bill at the banquet I was glad to see him but bewildered why he’d come. “So Bill,” I said. “What are a couple of freak shows like you and me doing at a do like this?”

Bill replied, politely, that he wasn’t sure what a freak show like me was doing here, but in his case he’d been nominated as Dade Citizen of the Year. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t win!

After the tornadoes of 2011, Bill & company had turned the American Legion Hall into Relief Central. They’d had a chainsaw gang cutting people out of wrecked houses and blocked driveway, plus a 24-hour free buffet for tornado victims and rescuers, Bill frequently manning a grill with those mighty tattooed arms. That was on top of what Bill and the Legion did normally, and it impressed the C of C enough to name Bill Citizen of the Year.

​​So Bill was not just my favorite veteran; that year he was everybody’s favorite veteran!

And that was my favorite Chamber of Commerce back then, too, BTW. Butch and Carolyn Raper were on the board and they were good sports who let me take pictures of them during their annual benefit rubber duck race like this:

Anyhoo! It was one of my favorite moments here because it made me feel that if Dade was a place big enough and gracious enough and quirky enough to accept Bill with his tats as Citizen of the Year, maybe a socially inept freak show like me could fit in, too. Bill belonged and I belonged!

Bill died in 2015 at only 64. He had not been commander of the post for a couple of years by then. But I still miss him and I still think of him whenever I think of Post 106. I am getting ancient enough myself to idealize the Old Days, when Bill was at the post, yellow ducks were at the Chamber, and all was right with the world.

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