Spiritual health and, more recently, cardiovascular health have been major focus points for Phil Lockard in his 90s.
Longtime members of Millbrook Baptist, South Aiken Presbyterian, and First Presbyterian Church of Aiken may know the Arkansas native for his years of guidance in Christian education as well as managing church affairs. .
“I was a Certified Director of Christian Education for the Presbyterian Church (USA). I held that position for 30 years until I retired in 1995,” he recalls.
“I led a church’s education ministry from birth to death. Now they have youth workers and youth educators and child educators, but I was the full gamut in a local church , directing Sunday school and youth and training activities and all the educational ministry of the church.
His connection to Millbrook included serving as the church’s business administrator from 1995 to 2000, and by the end of that time heart health had become a major concern and surgery was imminent.
“I had to step down from that position and go get my heart fixed,” he said.
The problem was “mitral valve regurgitation, which means the mitral valve doesn’t close completely,” he recalled. “As a result, some of the blood goes back into the body rather than the lungs to be oxygenated, and so they did a procedure which they fixed by putting a band around my mitral valve, kind of like a rubber band, and the leaflets closed better, but they did not… completely close.”
The leaks continued, but more than 20 years later Lockard is vigorous, walks without a cane and has no pain – a major asset as he and his wife Emily seek to keep up with a family that includes two adult sons and an adult girl.
Lockard does not take his excellent health for granted.
“I attribute that to the fact that for 17 years I went to the USC Aiken Wellness Center. They have an exercise program, and the first few months I was there as a cardiac patient recovering from my heart surgery, so the doctors recommended that I exercise…Then when those 12 weeks were over, I went on year after year and did it.”
He became a founding member of the Aiken Chapter of Repaired Heartsan organization “to inspire hope and improve the quality of life of heart patients and their families through ongoing peer-to-peer support, education and advocacy”.
Mended Hearts as a whole has about 72,000 members in 20 countries and 250 chapters and groups, Lockard said.
The organization’s operations, however, have been hit hard locally over the past two years, due to COVID-19 concerns and heavy restrictions against hospital visits, meaning local boosters of Mended Hearts could not meet face to face with the heart. patients to offer encouragement and share stories of highs and lows.
“Our main goal was to visit patients and encourage them, support them if they have heart problems, and their families.” He confirmed that “we were all a group of retirees, and we were tired, and then the hospital told us we couldn’t visit, because of COVID, and we’re still in that mode.”
Lockard and his wife married in April 1964 and remain regulars at South Aiken Presbyterian, where church member Paul Ebel opted for “energetic” and “devoted to the church” when asked to describe the man of the house.
“He and Emily have been vital to the work of our church, and they are there every Sunday. He has been sick recently, but whenever he feels well enough he will be there, and that is just wonderful. to see it.”
He added, “Everybody in the church knows…Phil and Emily, and every time I walk past the church, I look over there and I see his SUV with the little American flag hanging in the windows, and I know it’s his car and… he’s there all the time, just doing stuff – painting and picking up stuff – and he’s just a wonderful guy in the church.”
Ebel’s wife, Reverend Martha Ebel of the First Presbyterian Church of Aiken, confirmed knowing the Lockards largely from their service at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where Martha was a volunteer chaplain.
“Phil and Emily were very active in talking to people who had heart problems or heart surgery,” she recalls. She noted that Emily, in particular, is great at helping church members stay in touch. “It’s…like all of a sudden you’ve had a heart attack, or your sister-in-law in Texas has had brain surgery, the person you’ll be calling to spread the word is Emily. Emily goes online and tells us everything that’s going on in the church,” she says.
The family’s background also includes contact with one of the most prominent businessmen in American history: Sam Walton, who made his fortune as the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, and spent much time in the town of Newport, in northeast Arkansas, where Phil Lockard first saw the light of day.
“Sam Walton was an elder at my local church and he had his first store in Newport, Arkansas — a Ben Franklin,” he said. “He went to Bentonville and started his mass marketing program. There’s a window around the corner from where his store was, with a picture and a whole bunch of information inside about Sam Walton He was a very generous and generous man and he developed a marketing strategy that really took off.”
Over the decades, Lockard’s favorite activities have included woodworking and (less recently) fishing, and he was also instrumental in founding the Greater Aiken Estates Neighborhood Association. He was its founder and first president (2006-10).
His family’s heirloom at Aiken Estates includes greenery with annual flashes of rose, just yards from Whiskey Road, in the form of a camellia bush “planted in honor of Phil and Emily Lockard for their dedication and their devotion to the Greater Aiken Estates Neighborhood Association.”
His routine no longer includes visits to the USCA Wellness Center, due to COVID-19 concerns, but weightlifting and stretching are part of his weekly routine, as he pointed out he a few decades ago.
“While we were there we had a 30 minute stretching session and worked every joint in our body, from fingertips to rotating my feet to raising my legs and rolling my arms. We were working every joint in our body, which I think has helped loosen up the joints now. We’d do anything with them… They had a good rehab program there, and I guess they still offer it.
Lockard’s experience also includes involvement with Aiken County Habitat for Humanity (as a founding board member and second president), the Aiken Council of Neighborhoods (as a co-founder, with the late Bill Gassman) and the boards of the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center and area churches serve together.
The local homelessness situation, he says, pricks his conscience.
“We don’t seem to be making any progress in getting homeless people off the streets in cold weather, and that’s one of my concerns right now, in particular, I hate to see our veterans treated poorly, and a lot of they are homeless. I have never served, and none of my family has ever had the opportunity to serve, but I really feel for those who are homeless.”
Lockard’s appreciation of good medical care predates his Mended Hearts experience by a few decades. He and his future wife met in Texarkana, Texas in 1962, attending a religious ceremony in connection with his role in Christian education involving seven congregations. At the time, he was a recent graduate of Lyon College (then known as Arkansas College, in the town of Batesville), and she was an accountant at Wadley Hospital, Texarkana.
They became engaged in 1963, and on the first day of 1964, Lockard suffered a broken jaw, fractured ribs, and other injuries in a car accident that landed him in hospital for three months, in due to a bad encounter with black ice on a road. in Appomattox, Virginia. At the time, he was pursuing a master’s degree in Christian education at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, in Richmond, Virginia.
“I give my homage to my lord and savior for helping me recover,” he said, adding that he was also grateful for divine guidance in 2000 as he underwent heart surgery and recovered with success.
Regarding Mended Hearts, Lockard said he doesn’t know if or when Local Organization (Chapter 294) will get back on their feet. Mel Sires, one of Lockard’s longtime associates at Mended Hearts, noted that outreach to local hospital visits began on September 1, 2001 and continued until late February 2020, when the pandemic was making headlines in the United States.
During this period, Mended Hearts representatives visited 26,247 individual patients at Aiken Regional Medical Centers and conducted 5,705 family visits. The total number of patient visits, Sires said, was 47,839.
Lockard “was involved in all of this,” Sires noted. “He was always very dedicated and very committed.”
Lockard pointed out that Aiken’s Mended Hearts chapter, at one point, had over 100 members, with 50 certified visitors in the mix. Certification was achieved through hours of training at Aiken Regional Medical Centers and also through the Mended Hearts National Office, all focused on “proper visitation etiquette – the do’s and don’ts for visit a patient.