One-time colleagues of former long-time Thompson city councillor Stella Locker, who died April 29 at the age of 87 after a five-month battle with pancreatic cancer, admired her for her honesty and her ability to back up her arguments with logic.
Locker served on city council from 1989 to 2014, all while helping to run a business, and her family said her involvement in local politics was the part of her life in Thompson she enjoyed most.
Former Mayor Tim Johnston, who served one term as a fellow councillor with Locker and two as mayor with her as one of the council members, said he always knew what she told him was what she really felt and that she was looking out for the people she worked for: the voters.
“I always knew that she was representing her constituency and what she believed and I always knew that she was doing it because she felt it was in the best interest of Thompson,” said Johnston.
And even though she was a fighter who refused to back down, Johnston said Locker wasn’t one to hold a grudge.
“She would debate hard, she would present her side but when that vote was cast, it was done, move on to the next topic and you started fresh,” said Johnston.
Adrian de Groot, who served three terms on council with Locker, said having her on the other side helped him to sharpen his arguments.
“Coun. Locker at the time certainly provided that stimulus in order to do that, especially for me. She didn’t agree just to agree. Things were questioned, which is good. It keeps that balance in council as well as makes people think. I think it’s healthy for a community to challenge each other. Stella certainly was that kind of a councillor.”
Locker served seven consecutive terms under three mayors and probably would have run again in 2014 if it wasn’t for health issues. Johnston says that if she had, she undoubtedly would have won again.
“I think that Stella had a broad base of constituents in this community that shared the same vision and she was absolutely true to them,” he said. “She made sure she made time for them.”
Even after he left Thompson, de Groot said he would pay a visit to see Locker when he was in town because he kew he would get honest information from her.
“I always sought her out for various opinions and I knew I was always going to get an earful.”
Her determination to battle for what she believed in was matched by her willingness to help out any community effort.
“There were many times that people showed up to Locker’s Real estate looking for a contribution to their organization or their event and Stella was always there,” said Johnston. “Stella was always one of those people I could go to and I knew she would be supportive because she supported the community.”
Locker was also easy to find because she had a tremendous work ethic, said Johnston.
“There were many times I would be down at my buildings late or driving by them to check and Stella’s car would be parked at the Plaza because she was working. She was a hard worker.”
To de Groot, Locker was an example of someone who isn’t motivated by vanity or a desire to be recognized for her accomplishments.
“There was no hidden agenda, there was no ‘I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine,’” he said. “She had a genuine interest in the community.”
The community that she dedicated so much time and energy to is poorer for her passing, says Johnston.
“Thompson has definitely lost someone that has been here a long time and had a very unique character and strength about her.”