Last updated: April 07. 2014 11:53AM - 2349 Views
Helen Sharpe

Contributed photo | Samuel and Katrina Locklear in the late '90s
Contributed photo | Samuel and Katrina Locklear in the late '90s
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Katrina and Samuel Locklear are a celebrated couple in their hometown of Pembroke, N.C. and throughout Robeson County. The couple, who married in 1953, have lived in Pembroke all their lives except for Katrina’s early childhood years.

Although their lives have been consumed by education, business and community improvement, they have their share of adventurous pursuits and special interests.

One of six children, Katrina, who was born in 1934, lived on a farm near Fairmont Indian School, where she played varsity basketball and softball as a seventh-grader. She played both sports five years until she graduated from Pembroke High School in 1951, changing schools after her freshman year when the family moved to a farm near Pembroke. She also excelled in academics and was promoted from seventh to ninth grade.

Katrina played guard during her high school basketball career. At that time all girls played halfcourt. Forwards shot against the opponents’ guards at one end of the court and guards guarded the opponents’ forwards at the other end. She generally was assigned to guard the opponents’ best forward.

Katrina’s aggressive court play often resulted with her eyeglasses being ripped from her face, so during the 1951 season Coach Tom Oxendine fitted her with a face mask, which became her identifying on-court trademark.

Samuel, who was born in 1928 to Luther and Pattie Locklear, attended schools in Pembroke, was an Army paratrooper 2 1/2 years and studied 2 ½ years at Pembroke State College (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke). In 1954 he graduated second in his class from Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science in Texas. He is credited as the first American Indian to be licensed as a funeral home director in Robeson County.

In 1952 Sam, as he is often known, joined the funeral home and associated businesses acquired or founded by his parents. Hence the name Locklear & Son, with Samuel the son. His mother died in 1972 and his father in 1977. Samuel took over operation of the funeral home when his father retired in 1965 and continues to run it today at the age of 85, with no plans of retiring.

30-year teaching career

After graduating from high school, Katrina attended Pembroke State College for two years and continued to participate in sports. She suspended her college work to start a family when she and Samuel married in 1953.

“I wanted to be a full-time mother and be home with my children,” she recalls about her decision to drop out of college. The couple have two sons and two daughters: the oldest, Linda Mae Vanderpool, died of cancer in 1986. She lived in Michigan. Carol Lowery lives in Maryland and has three children. She is an office manager for a business. Samuel Jr. lives in Colorado and Stuart, who is a Duke graduate, returned home after years of living and working in various places around the world. He is employed by the Lumbee tribe. Samuel and Katrina are active in Pembroke Gospel Chapel.

None of the children went to work at the funeral home. “They didn’t want to be tied down,” Katrina said.

When all of her children had begun school, Katrina returned to Pembroke State College and earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1963. After teaching 14 years at Hawkeye School near Raeford, she completed a 30-year career at Carroll Middle School in Lumberton.

She served 12 years on the North Carolina Textbook Commission before retiring in 1993. She served 12 years on the Board of Trustees at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton, is a member of the Robeson County Retired School Personnel Association and on the advisory board of the Givens Performing Arts Center at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Samuel’s parents purchased the Pembroke Funeral Home in the old Breece store downtown in 1948 from Pates Supply Co. They also operated businesses that provided numerous services, such as recapping tires; refurbishing car batteries; repairing cars, radios and wagons; selling auto parts, providing blacksmith services to reshoe mules, and selling groceries and feed. The current funeral home was built in 1975 next to Sam’s and Katrina’s home on Union Chapel Road and occupied on Sam’s birthday, July 13, 1975.

By growing up in an environment where he was exposed to so many different types of businesses, Katrina says Sam became “a jack of all trades. He can do just about anything.”

While Samuel’s parents were active in the family business, he was able to try his hand at additional undertakings, including farming. He bought a tractor and operated three farms. He added a combine, corn picker and truck, hauled grain and operated a service station. After purchasing another truck, he hauled beef from Kansas and seafood from the north. In 1959 he leased 300 acres from the U.S. government and continued to farm until 1965 when his father retired from the funeral business.

“It then became necessary to relinquish other interests and primarily take care of the funeral business,” he said. He expressed gratitude to the Lumbee people, who inspired him to strive to be professional and do a good job and who he says have constituted about 99 percent of his business.

Businessman of year

When he received the first Businessman of the Year award from the Pembroke Chamber of Commerce in 1996, Sam thanked the town of Pembroke for his success.

“I am proud of my heritage, our university and the growth that the town has seen over the years,” he said. He pointed to the professional people who grew up in Pembroke and said, “I would be willing to say that we have more professional people per capita than anywhere in the United States.”

Sam served one term as mayor of Pembroke in 1963 and ‘64. He has served as chairman of the Lumberton Municipal Airport Commission and still sits on the commission, has been chairman of the UNC-Pembroke Chancellors Club and is a current member of the National Funeral Directors Association and Pembroke Chamber of Commerce.

Samuel and Katrina are licensed pilots, although their licenses are no longer current. At one time both owned airplanes. Sam was rated to fly on instruments in low- or no-visibility weather (except for takeoffs and landings) and was certified to fly planes with multiple engines.

“It was fascinating,” Katrina said of their flying experiences. “We would fly to Michigan to see our daughter or fly to Washington, D.C. to go to the theater and be home in bed by 1 o’clock.” She said they aged out of flying and now fly only commercially.

From her childhood when her mother allowed her to help with gardening Katrina has loved flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. She is a certified master gardener. She says she took the master gardener course when she retired. With Sam’s help, she continues to grow more than 140 varieties of plants on 2 1/2 acres of beautiful gardens and landscaping on the grounds surrounding their home. Two 80-foot wells and an extensive piping system deliver water to the garden. Numerous visitors come to enjoy the gardens, and Katrina often gifts plants to friends. A ceramic tablet in the garden proclaims: “Life began in a garden.”

As Katrina and Samuel Locklear review their life together, they can only conclude that it has been filled with numerous accomplishments and blessings.

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