Chief John Lockhart will be remembered fondly by many in the community and those closest to him bring up two aspects of his personality that stuck out to them, his ability to communicate and his sense of humor.
Lockhart joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in Thailand before becoming a police officer.
Longevity was the name of the game for Lockhart in every aspect of his professional life. He spent 25 years at Kieffer Lumber, known as their "paint guy" according to his younger sister Laura Leathers. His law enforcement career overlapped with his painting work for Kieffer. According to Leathers, his first two positions on local police forces, at the Wabash County Sheriff's Office and in West Salem as the Chief of Police, shared his time with Kieffer.
Once on the Mount Carmel Police Department, Lockhart became a K9 officer and then Chief of Police, the position he announced his retirement from at the end of March.
He served on the Mount Carmel Police Department for 22 years and was Chief of Police for the last six.
A common thread that revealed itself in interviews with those who knew Lockhart well was his even temperament and ability to deescalate a tense situation.
"Really, John was probably best known for his ability to talk to people," said Mike McWilliams, a fellow Mount Carmel Police officer. Most of the people he dealt with professionally, even those he arrested, like John regardless of the outcome of their case, McWilliams added.
"He always had a good report with people," he added.
Kenny Burkitt, a former fellow Mount Carmel Police officer, said Lockhart was compassionate as a public servant, but also firm when he needed to be. "He knew business was business," said Leslie Williams, Lockhart's youngest sister.
"He was just as compassionate as he could've been," said Burkitt.
Fairness was important to Lockhart, according to each source for this story.
"All my life, people told me that," Leathers said.
Burkitt and Lockhart had a lot in common. They had both been in military service. Burkitt was a United States Marine for five years. They would take trips to Evansville regularly, Burkitt said, to eat Thai food that Lockhart had discovered an interest in while stationed overseas.
Lockhart's sense of humor came up multiple times during interviews.
Burkitt recalled once when the joke was on Lockhart himself, not long after he had joined MCPD.
There was a call on West Fourth Street and Burkitt and Lockhart were the two officers on duty. Burkitt was familiar with the address and he waited for Lockhart to arrive before slowly driving down the alley to watch the interaction between the subject of the call and his fellow officer.
After about five minutes of speaking with the person, Lockhart turned around to see Burkitt sitting in his car and realizing he had been set up to deal with the nuisance.
That back and forth continued throughout Lockhart's career at MCPD,
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but mostly outside of work as the two men were on different shifts.
When Lockhart began chemo-therapy, Burkitt would check in on him and the two would joke with one another during treatments, Burkitt recalled.
"There are very few people that have anything negative to say about John," said McWilliams, adding that that likability was his gift.
One of his fondest hobbies was fishing, according to those close to him. "That was what he did to relax," McWilliams said, "I wish he would've done more of it."
Leathers, who once shared a room, measles and the tonsil-removal recovery experience with Lockhart as children, said he kept the same friends throughout his life.
One such friend in a professional sense was Terry Bender, the secretary to the Chief of Police.
Leathers described her as his right-hand person on the force.
As a young man, Lockhart wanted to be a forest ranger and always sought public service and community-oriented jobs, according to his sisters.
"John was loved," Leathers said.
"I know where he's at," she said, "and I'm very comforted by that."