On My Mind: My days with Nancy Lockwood


I’m still struggling to grasp the idea that my long-time friend Nancy Lockwood is no longer here. The former solid waste division manager for the City of Watsonville died June 29 at her Watsonville home after an on-again, off-again fight with cancer. I ran into her scores of times over the years with my job as a reporter and photographer at the annual Earth Day/Day of the Child event, the recycling center, along the sloughs, at the Birding Festival, the Farmer’s Market, the Engineer’s Week egg drop and umpteen other occasions. Nancy always had something amusing or insightful to offer. She wasn’t one for useless gab or one to slip by without a warm greeting.

I almost always felt she was trying to move something positive forward — some program, a current issue, a recycling thing or a new trail — all for the better of the community: That’s who she was. Since we had a good working relationship where she knew the value of the media, Nancy was a tremendous source for both hard-hitting stories and photos or some new nutty thing to come along for the newspaper, like the Earth Day marauder, the Plastic Bag Monster. She never wandered far from her sense of humor. And I can easily recall her enthusiasm and thrill for upcoming positive changes in her department.

But Nancy was never forceful or assuming. That was a huge part of her — Nancy was a gentle, easy going woman with a graceful understanding of how people work and what it took to bring ideas forward and into action in a respectful manner.

I still recall, years ago, how she pulled me aside at her work desk, beaming with excitement about a new environment-saving product she had just learned about, the Chico Bag that was being introduced to Watsonville. With childlike wonder, she whipped one out of her desk and launched into a demo, proud to show how a full-size nylon grocery sack can be squashed back into its own tiny tote bag that easily drops into a purse, pocket or glove box. I still use it and continue to relish the memory of her demo when I do.

Nancy Lockwood, who helped create the 6.5-mile slough-wetland trail system and shape the bulk of the city’s progressive environmental direction, was only 62. I’m sure she still had a river of ideas floating around her head on how to continue to improve this area but now she’s gone.

Nancy garden sign web 7-12

This sign, fashioned from vehicle license plates, hung at the gate of Nancy Lockwood’s orchard. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

I was privileged to have been invited to her home out past the fairgrounds just days after her passing. Marcella Tavantzis, who worked for the City alongside Lockwood for years, was there along with Denise Beld, SuzanneWilliams and others sorting through Nancy’s stuff. Marcella showed me the bed where Nancy left us and pointed out how a window allowed a view of the owl box Nancy had set up in her front yard. An owl had recently moved in there and Marcella said Nancy was tickled by its presence. I saw Nancy’s fantastic egg-beater collection and her incredible orchard chalked full of fruit trees and interesting little signs, including one that was made out of various license plates that read “GARDEN.” Nancy’s electric car was there in the driveway plugged into the solar panels on her roof. I looked in the dirt-streaked window and saw a bunch of papers, her sun hat and things strewn about where she had last touched them. I sure felt her presence that day as I wandered around her house, garden and out back onto her spacious deck. The views were incredible. I was drawn into the peacefulness and the calm of her home as I studied her collection of seashells and bird books and artwork. In a way, it was too powerful, too sudden. And I’m still having a tough time absorbing it.

If I had the chance, I’d sure tell Nancy this: Thank you for living out your passion and handing it over to the rest of us.

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Contact Register-Pajaronian photographer Tarmo Hannula at [email protected]

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