A lot of people knew Ronnie Lockhart better than me. My brief experiences with the man, however, loom large in memory. I was profoundly sorry to hear of his passing.
Ronnie was maybe not the first person I met on St. Thomas but was surely the first whose name I remembered. The Associated Press had hired me — based on my time in Tortola for the BVI Beacon — to be their Virgin Islands reporter. I again left the Pacific Northwest, this time landing in St. Thomas, not knowing a soul. I also quickly landed in hot water with my new job.
Ronnie must have seen the in-over-my-head look in my eye. Not knowing me from Adam, he stopped me in our shared Garden Street neighborhood and asked what was wrong. I needed to get across town and back but had no car and no idea where I was going.
That was all it took. He put me in his Jeep (or truck, I forget) and drove me where I needed to go. He even waited while I tried to smooth out the mess I’d made.
Later, when I needed a place to live temporarily until I found a permanent place, Ronnie put me up at Crystal Palace (at a nice off-season rate in January!). Cheese and Bread. I’d been living in an inexpensive hotel. This was a major upgrade. It was also an extraordinary upgrade over the hovels I’d been bunking in both stateside and in the British Virgin Islands. Everywhere was art, antique vases, mahogany furniture, even the flooring seemed too good for me. Ronnie said to make myself at home.
I was there for a couple of nights before he moved me to another short-term rental up the street. Here I met others like me — transplants from the mainland trying to find their way.
Years passed, and I was always grateful for the times I’d bump into him. I’d wave and tell the person I was with how that man had been there for me in my time of need. There are other people like this scattered across the world: people who boosted me when I was low or opened the figurative trap’s jaws when my foot was stuck. I owe them all my thanks.