Last Word: A Quiet Man
An alumnus considers the qualities of extraordinary action.
By Paul Ganz ’54, M’62
Owen Murnane ’54 and I were struggling with the same problem as we drove down the George Washington Parkway to Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of classmate and SAE fraternity brother Fred Locke ’54. We knew that Fred’s family would want stories of his life at Bucknell. The problem was that we had no stories, and that worried us. I searched my memory for an anecdote, something that I could say, yes, that was typical Fred Locke. But all we could offer was that we lived together for four years, knew little about Fred’s outstanding accomplishments as a soccer player and that he was quiet and unassuming, modest and stoical, with strongly held opinions which he kept mostly to himself.
Now Fred, who was so modest and secretive about his athletic achievements at Bucknell, was being honoured posthumously for service to his country and as a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. We had difficulty reconciling the young Fred Locke we remembered lounging on one of the ancient leather sofas at the fraternity house, grinning sardonically while watching the antics of the less mature brothers, with the heroic Marine he became. The Marine who, under near impossible conditions, in “excruciating pain,” with blood on his visor obscuring his vision, wrested the controls from the mortally wounded pilot and safely landed his helicopter at Da Nang hospital, saving the lives of his remaining crew.
When did Fred acquire the personal qualities for heroic action? Perhaps those values had grown in him in the intervening years?
As Lieutenant Colonel Locke, Vietnam hero and graduate of Bucknell University, was finally laid to rest among the other heroes in a place that “represents the soul of America,” and finally I understood. It was futile to try to remember some conspicuous act from his undergraduate days that would have given a clue to his later heroics. It was dead wrong to assume that somewhere between Bucknell and that fateful day over Quang Nam province Fred had received a sudden injection of heroic characteristics. I know they had always been there.
I imagine that in the critical moment of Fred struggling to regain control of the wildly spinning helicopter, he remained the quiet, unassuming man I remember from our college days, but also a man faced with the most difficult of circumstances. Duty called and he answered. As a Marine officer, the ultimate private man responded with courage and honor. I finally realized the makings of a hero: One who sees his or her duty and fulfills it, without question. The more difficult the situation, the more important is the obligation to duty. Fred’s resolute determination to do his duty had led him to his heroic acts.
Fred Locke had arrived at the University knowing instinctively what was important. His time at Bucknell nurtured that sense of duty through his athletic and academic endeavours, which was sharpened and redefined with the added responsibility of combat command. The intervening years had not molded Fred to prepare him for that fateful day over Vietnam. He always had the capacity for heroism.
Lt. Col. Fred Locke ’54, pilot to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, passed away on Jan. 25, 2009. Paul Ganz ’54, M’62, a retired teacher, has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 22 years.