Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Jim Locke

 James Stephen Locke


            Jim Locke embodied the truth that the real quality of a person lies in his spiritual excellence and in the quality of his character, not his knowledge, wealth, sophistication, or worldly accomplishments.  Those who knew him for 20 years or for only the last few months of his life testified to his richness in the former, although he lived a life with few of those material benefits that make this transitory life comfortable. 


             He lived a simple, devotional life. After serving in the U.S. Army band as a saxophone player, he turned to the service of Christ when he found the Christian ministry Agape Force in Denver, Colorado, in the last 20 years of his life. He served with Agape Force in a missionary team working in the mid-west, moving from town to town and carrying sleeping bags for bedding. Jim was an excellent saxophone player. He would begin playing the saxophone in the evening, playing tunes like “When the Saints Go Marching In” and attract an audience, and then play more religious music once a crowd had gathered.


            He lived and served on the Texas ranch of Agape Force for many years. He would pick up trash along the side of the road. One friend remembered seeing him doing this one day, standing by himself and speaking to a snake, telling the snake “Leave me alone – I’m just here to pick up trash. You go your way and I’ll go mine.”   He helped sell fruit in the local market, arriving at 4:00 a.m., carrying his Bible with him and talking about Jesus. He enjoyed the simple chores, like carrying the hay to the horses and watching them eat. Sometimes Jim would go into the woods, alone with his saxophone, and commune with God in this way. He loved playing the Pink Panther song.


            One day, a friend of his on the ranch asked Jim to bring him a plate of food from town when Jim returned in the evening, about 7:00 or 7:30, explaining that this would be his only food that day. He told Jim not to forget. About 4:30 that afternoon, Jim arrived at his friend’s place, carrying with him only a small plate of food. The friend was initially disappointed by the small amount of food, but Jim explained that he did not want him to wait all day to eat, so he brought him something early. Jim had walked, alone, 10 miles from town, carrying the plate with the food. It was a humbling experience for Jim’s friend.


            Jim enjoyed living and seeing other people enjoy themselves. His friends remember him as good-natured and laughing and creative, warm and gentle and kind and happy. He did his work cheerfully and faithfully. He did not complain about working outdoors in the cold. He would give a straight answer in conversation.


            Jim Locke formally registered as a Bahá’í eleven months before he passed away. He worked at the local Goodwill store and lived alone in a small apartment that had very few things in it. He was humble and uncomplaining about his life. Friends would regularly pick him up and give him a ride to Feast, Holy Days, and other occasions. When a saxophone was provided to him at the monthly Devotional Meeting, he would display to all his musical talent. He was a quiet and peaceful presence at Bahá’í occasions, and pleased to be present enjoying his association with his new friends. At this late time in his life, he had great trouble walking, shuffling his feet and moving slowly, but it never prevented him from getting out and doing those simple things that he loved.


            Jim was at work on Thursday, December 23rd, 1999, when late in the morning he suffered a heart attack and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. His soul ascended that morning to God’s most glorious kingdom. No family could be found to participate in the funeral. His mortal remains were laid to rest by his friends the morning of Friday, December 31st at Mountain View Memorial Park cemetery with a graveside Bahá’í service that included recorded saxophone music. The grave stone, placed by his Christian friends, shows a saxophone playing music and reads “a simple Jesus lovin’ man”. 



 Photo of Jim courtesy of The News Tribune





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