Lewis “Louie” Russell Locke was born in Jewell County, Kansas, on December 26, 1912, to Terrance and Opal Smith Locke. His father was a minister with the Free Methodist Church. Louie attended high school in Lebanon, Kansas, where he was active with the football and basketball teams. In fact, he carried a back injury throughout his life that resulted from playing high school sports. He married a local girl and moved to Canon City, Colorado, where he worked on a truck farm. Their daughter, Margaret, was born in 1933. In 1942, Louie moved to Corvallis to work for Ralph Chapman Industries, producing war housing cabinets and refrigeration units for local businesses. He later worked for Wilson Motors in Corvallis, starting the tire service center before becoming a mechanic. After his first marriage ended, Louie and his brother, Charlie, walked into Mrs. Smith’s Cafe, across from the Corvallis Gazette-Times office on Southwest Third and Jefferson. Louie took one look at the waitress, Polly Decker, and told his brother, “I’m going to marry that girl.” That was in the fall of 1944, and less than a year later, Louie proposed. He and Polly were married July 23, 1945, at the home of Judge Denman.
Polly descended from pioneer families who settled south of Philomath. She was born July 6, 1923, to Paul and Dorothy (Moore) Decker in the home of her maternal grandparents, John and Mina Moore. Her paternal grandparents, Franklin and Mary (Phillips) Decker, sold the right of way through their property for the creation of what is now Decker Road. Polly graduated from Corvallis High School in 1941, then moved to Salem and commuted via shuttle bus to work as a welder in Portland at the Oregon Shipyards during the war. After sustaining an injury, she went to work at Camp Adair in 1943, then moved back to Corvallis after being hospitalized with the flu in 1944.
Shortly after Louie and Polly married, they moved to Holyoke, Colorado, where he took a job with Monahan & McGuire Construction, working to build a new airport. They returned to Philomath in 1948, where Polly worked at Gene’s Cafe and the post office. Louie worked at Clark & Hathaway Service Garage in Philomath. In 1950, Louie began working for Ray Bonesteel’s Studebaker while Polly managed an apartment complex in Corvallis. In 1955, Louie started his own service station in Philomath, which he and Polly operated for the next five years, until the relationship with the parent company went sour. In 1961, he went to work for the Corvallis School District. Meanwhile, after waiting for fifteen years to become parents, Polly and Louie adopted a girl, Becky, born July 20, 1959. While Becky was growing up, Polly worked for several years as a cook in Fairplay School and other satellite schools, then took a leave of absence to care for her mother-in-law. When the leave expired, she began providing child care in her home. “I loved every minute of it,” Polly recalls. “Those were the best twenty years of my life—the best job I ever hand. I’m still reaping the rewards.”
The children gave Polly a big retirement party in 1988, but many kept in touch over the years, often dropping by for a hug or some coffee in one of the many mugs in her collection—most of them gifts from her extended family of grandchildren. “They called me Grandma Polly and Louie was Grandpa Louie,” she recalls. “Just a few days ago, a red pickup pulled into the yard and a young girl called ‘Grandma’ and ran over to give me a big hug. Here was someone I’d raised from the time she was three weeks old. It’s the icing on the cake!”
The year Philomath High School’s football team won the state championship, eight or ten of the players on the roster were Locke “grandkids.” Over twenty years, Polly cared for 897 children—not counting the two foreign exchange students they hosted through AFS while Becky was in school. As Polly said, “There’s always room for one more!”
Most of Philomath High School’s athletes over the last few decades knew Louie Locke as one of the staunchest supporters of the sports programs. His wife, Polly, recalls, “We would be walking down the street, and some young man would say, ‘Hi.’ I’d ask who that was, and Louie would say, ‘That was Number 26.’ He may not have known their names, but he knew all their numbers.” After his retirement as warehouseman for the Corvallis School District in 1977, Louie attended every home football and basketball game, both boys’ and girls’ teams, and rode the team bus for away football games. He was also involved with the girls’ volleyball team. The school honored Louie in two occasions, once with a certificate as an honored fan and in the mid-1980s with a letterman’s jacket, which became Louie’s most prized possession. He was involved in the local Grange and had been a member of the Moose Lodge. Louie passed away April 6, 1997, having enjoyed a full and rewarding life and nearly fifty-two years of marriage. Polly passed away June 2012.
A scholarship from this fund is awarded to a graduating Philomath High School senior who participated in volleyball, girls’ basketball, boys’ basketball, or football.