View a performance of “Kokosing Farewell” created by several decades of Chamber Singers alumni in honor of Kay Locke.
Kathleen “Kay” Locke, wife of Professor of Music Benjamin R. Locke and longtime member of the Kenyon and Gambier communities, died on May 26, 2020. A resident of the Ohio Eastern Star Home in Mount Vernon, where she had been treated for Parkinson’s disease, she was 81.
Born Kathleen Ruth Crawford, Kay was a native of Xenia, Ohio. She was a graduate of the University of Toledo. She and Ben were married in 1977.
Kay and Ben arrived in Gambier in 1984, when Ben joined Kenyon’s music faculty. As the head of the College’s vocal music program, he soon came to be known both on campus and beyond as the talented and much-admired conductor of the Kenyon Chamber Singers. He and Kay became famous for their almost weekly lasagna dinners for the College’s student singers.
“Kay championed generations of Kenyon students,” said Scott Baker ’94, a former Chamber Singer who served for many years as the College’s head of alumni and parent engagement. “She regularly invited us into her home, and she was a comforting presence during rehearsals and performances both on campus and on the road, always with encouragement before and a compliment to share after. Her caring presence was felt throughout the community, and she loved to stay connected with everyone well past their formative years on the Hill. We shared so many good times and laughs together. I will miss her deeply.”
In 2015, the Kathleen “Kay” Locke Community Service Prize in Music was established in her honor. It is now presented annually, at Kenyon’s Honors Day Convocation, to a student or students “who have provided outstanding service to the College community through their musical activities.”
A musician herself, Kay played the flute in the Knox County Symphony, which Ben has now conducted for 37 years. She also sang in the Kenyon Community Choir, again under her husband’s direction. An avid naturalist as well, with a strong interest in ecology, she served for many years as a volunteer at the Gorman Nature Center in nearby Mansfield.
Over the years, from 1986 through 2007, Kay held a number of staff positions, both long-term and temporary, at the College. Among the many departments, people, programs and offices that benefited from her multifarious abilities and skills were the old Academic Computing Services, the chaplain, the Integrated Program in Humane Studies, the Kenyon Bookstore and the Office of the Registrar.
“Kay twice accepted invitations to fill in as our office administrator in public affairs while we conducted searches,” remembered Tom Stamp ’73, a former director of that office. “She was a marvel of efficiency, an excellent editor and proofreader, and a calm and cheerful presence at even our most harried moments. Both times Kay worked with us we offered her the job on a permanent basis, but both times she politely declined. All of us loved her.”
Love for Kay was something shared by many in Gambier and led by her husband. Ben recently commissioned composer and songwriter Andrea Daly ’06, a former student, to write “Beloved,” a piece dedicated to Kay that has now been recorded by the Chamber Singers. Painstakingly produced under the distancing restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be heard and seen on Daly’s YouTube channel here.
“Kay touched my life profoundly while I was at Kenyon,” said Daly. “‘Beloved’” was my attempt to capture her energy, wit, charm and tenderness in music. I’m grateful that she got to hear it.”
“While I never knew Kay well, I have always been inspired by the obvious depth of Ben’s love for her,” said David Hoyt ’14, digital content editor in the College’s Office of Communications and a member of the Knox County Symphony both now and as a student. “Orchestral scores are usually marked by a series of alphabetical waypoints to help the musicians find their place, and in rehearsals, whenever Ben instructed the ensemble to begin playing at letter K, he would always add as an aside that it was his ‘favorite letter.’ I never once doubted that this was true.”
Kay is survived by her husband of more than 40 years; four sons, Michael Myers, David Myers, Jeffrey Myers and Daniel Myers; six grandchildren, including Amber Krabach and James Myers, both of whom grew up in Gambier; three great-grandchildren; three sisters, Constance Bergquist, Sallie Spears and Margaret Sarracino; and several nephews and nieces. Following a private graveside service, burial was in the Kokosing Nature Preserve.
“The entire Kenyon community, past and present, has lost a beautiful friend,” remarked Sally Rogan P’83 GP’23, a longtime friend and former Gambier resident who now lives in Mesa, Arizona. “We join in celebrating her beautiful life of service as we mourn her loss. May memories of her shining face continue to inspire the music of Gambier Hill.”
Memorial contributions may be made to the College’s Department of Music at gift.kenyon.edu or in care of the Advancement Division, 105 Chase Avenue, Gambier, Ohio 43022-9623, or to the Knox County Symphony, P.O. Box 454, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050.
Plans for a memorial gathering will be announced at a later date.