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A DEATH IN THE FAMILY – PART 1

A Tribute to My Father

This is the first of a two-part series in which our General Manager, Ashe Lockhart, talks about the death of his father (in this part 1) and about grief and the family luncheon after the burial service (part 2). This is just us sharing who we are and giving a look at our real lives and how the gritty reality of life impacts and interacts with our business.

– Chef Sam

After 93 years and 5 months on this temporal sphere, my father, Thomas Ashe Lockhart (a.k.a. “TA,” “Le Fromage Grand,” among others) died of old age at 12:10 am on Tuesday 14 September 2021 in the skilled nursing facility at The Barclay at South Park.  He was born in Charlotte in 1928.  His lion-like, lawyer father (James A. Lockhart, Jr) died shortly after my father was born, leaving his mother with 3 small children and a mortgage on a home in Myers Park. 

Picking up the pieces of her family at the onset of The Great Depression, his resolute and resourceful mother, Sara Maffit Lockhart, opened a K-2 day school and summer camp in her home on Beverly Drive by contacting fellow members of the Charlotte Country Club who had children.  My father and his older siblings became the custodians of the plant and equipment of her school, which was housed in the garage behind their home.

He attended Central High School on the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Kings Drive in what is now a building on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College.  He attended undergrad and law school in Chapel Hill toward the end of the Frank Porter Graham era and received his BA and LLB (JD) when he was 22 years old.  He was a committed Carolina fan and a loyal supporter of the law school throughout his life.  He was an Army JAG officer and served in Korea, receiving a Bronze Star medal.

Dad was a tenacious attorney and exemplified what I believed a lawyer to be as I began my life in the law in my late thirties.  He appeared in a number of well-known cases in state and federal court, notably Alford v. Shaw, a complex shareholder derivative action that was fought with great fervor and included numerous appeals to the NC Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. He was an early, public, and vocal supporter of admitting black attorneys to the Bar at a time when that was not a popular cause, and he was socially and professionally shunned by others as a result.

My father loved to travel.  From the 1970s through the 1990s, Acapulco was an annual destination for travel south, and he frequented The Carlyle Hotel in New York several times each year.  His family accompanied him on some of these trips, and we have memories and stories of those exploits that are fantastic almost to the point of being unimaginable.

In later years, he traveled to Western Europe tracking down family origins in France and England (particularly enjoying The Connaught in London).  He found a place of respite in the village of Teffont Evias, from which his Ashe ancestors emigrated to make a home in colonial North Carolina in the late 17th century, and he became a devoted student of the Middle Temple of the Inns of Court in London.

He traveled to the Holy Land as an Episcopal pilgrim seeking to understand his maker.  He came to experience great sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people during his travels.  His investigations into family origins and Christian traditions came full circle, and he acquired a deep connection to Charleston, the Lowcountry, and the Mepkin Abbey monastery in Monck’s Corner, where he nearly took up residence.

I wish I could gush with all the sentiment people expect at times like these, where an eldest son might say “my father was my best friend and confidant and taught me to ‘drive from the men’s tee.’”  But that wouldn’t be the truth.  Most of what I learned from him was both hard-taught and hard-fought.  Nevertheless, I learned a lot, and he instilled in me a lifelong love of words, if nothing else. 

My father was strict to the point of being tyrannical, and I was defiantly rebellious.  He was complicated, and our relationship was complex – the effects of which may dissipate but will always linger.  Thankfully, we overcame many of the barriers that we erected between ourselves.  And in the end, love prevails through far tougher storms than these, forgiveness relieves the forgiver and the forgiven, and few men could ever hope to enjoy the respect and admiration I have for him now.