Scotia Village resident Locke MacDonald has not one love story to tell, but two. One began when Locke was still in high school but then waited more than half a century to flourish. The other started when Locke was in the Navy and had a chance encounter that ended up bringing together an unlikely couple.
First things first. Locke grew up just up the road and went to high school in Raeford. Toward the end of his junior year, a senior named Betty asked him to sign her yearbook. Ever the character, Locke says he wrote:
“Best to you, Betty. Because anybody who has feet as big as mine deserves the best.”
Not amused, Betty told him to do it again, “She told me ‘Now write something nice,’” explains Locke. The two were not yet a couple, which makes what Locke wrote next particularly poignant:
“Betty, all the best to you, for as much as we have in common, I wonder if we shall in the future, as well.”
At the end of Locke’s freshman year at Davidson College, the two ran into each other by accident and ended up going out on a double date one night. “As we were dancing together,” says Locke, “we felt something and we didn’t see anybody else for two years.”
However, fate was not on their side. And although the couple talked about marriage, “it got complicated and didn’t work out,” says Locke. “She broke it off. But I was still in love with her.”
Locke even bought her a graduation present when she got her degree from Greensboro College, graduating summa cum laude and student body president. “I went to her graduation but didn’t let her know I was there,” he adds. “And that was the end of it.” The gift? Three soup spoons from a silverware pattern Betty had registered for.
Time and life marched on. Locke enlisted in the Navy and Betty eventually married someone else, ending this first love story… for now.
The second love story begins during Locke’s time stationed in Panama. Over a cup of “joe,” as Locke calls it, he and his buddies heard about a tragic accident back in the states that had taken the life of the Rear Admiral’s son and injured his daughter-in-law.
As the enlisted men read the newspaper article about the incident and the family, Locke was taken by the description of the daughter-in-law and felt an immediate connection to her. Locke knew that she would be living on the base with the Admiral’s family. But he also knew they would probably never meet. After all, she was the daughter-in-law of the Admiral and he was just an enlisted man.
After some time, Locke was still stationed in Panama and taking a biology field course at a local college there when he was invited by the professor to go along on a trip to visit a research station in another part of the country. When he arrived, “there were a number of students standing off to one side,” Locke says. “And this stranger had her back to me, talking with the professor.
“I knew immediately who it was. How I knew that, I don’t know. But with my hand in the air, I knew exactly who it was even though I didn’t know her name.”
Sure enough, it was her, the Admiral’s daughter-in-law. And her name was Charlotte.
Before returning to Panama, Locke eventually worked up the nerve to speak with her on the train back to the base. He realized that if he didn’t ask her on a date before the train got to the station, he may never see her again. So, two minutes before they arrived back at the base, Locke asked Charlotte the only thing he could think to ask: “Would you like to play bridge sometime soon?”
Charlotte said she’d love to.
Back in Panama, Locke found an officer and his wife who would invite them over to play bridge. The couple began dating, which was an adventure. Locke recalls a day when they had just gone swimming and Charlotte asked if Locke wanted to come inside for a Coke. “There we were, standing in the Admiral’s kitchen, in my bathing suit, probably dripping wet, having a Coke and in walks the Admiral and the Secretary of the Navy. They in their dress white uniforms and me in my bathing suit.
“Three days later, I had orders to go to Norfolk, Virginia,” Locke continues. When he had to cross Panama to catch his flight, the Admiral had sent a Navy car to chauffeur him to the flight line where the Admiral’s personal plane carried him safely to Norfolk.
Charlotte decided then to go to UNC Chapel Hill to finish her degree, earning Phi Beta Kappa honors. Locke drove down on weekends to see her and they married a year later. After finishing his commitment to the Navy, Locke completed his degree at Davidson College.
As Charlotte and Locke enjoyed life together, so did Betty and her husband, D.B. Herring, of Fayetteville. After 51 years together, Leukemia took Charlotte from Locke. Cancer also claimed D.B., after 49 years of marriage with Betty.
However, fate had one more twist in store.
With more in common now than ever, Locke and Betty got back in touch and began meeting for coffee. Soon they were meeting for lunch. “First thing you knew, we were having dinner together,” Locke continues. “Then we’re saying ‘no, we can’t get married.’ And the next thing you knew we were married!”
And that graduation gift of soup spoons that Locke had given Betty all those years ago? Although she had passed along the rest of the silverware to her daughter, she had never let go of those soup spoons.
“What we had 50 some years ago,” adds Locke, “all of sudden blossomed again.”
Locke and Betty’s love story continues now, with the couple having been married 10 years now. They moved to Scotia Village five years ago to make caring for Betty’s advancing Alzheimer’s. When Locke isn’t by his ailing wife’s side, you can often catch him tending to Joe’s Garden on the grounds here at the community.