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"My Father, the Nature Lover"
(This column also appeared in The Oak Ridger, June 18, 2021)

Judy Lockhart DiGregorio

My Dad loved his family, his country and the U.S.ARMY.

Thanks to his Army career all five of his children experienced living in some of the most beautiful places on earth including Guam, Marianas Islands, where we loved the palm trees that hung over the beaches and enjoyed swinging from them with ropes attached for us to grab. We also experienced typhoons for the first time and watched the roof blow off our quonset hut during one. Thankfully we were in a nearby shelter and safe from the debris. Panama Canal Zone was another beautiful spot full of scenic tropical views and wildlife including boa constrictors, monkeys, ocelots, leopards, etc. Dad took us fishing and hiking everywhere we lived as he loved the outdoors having grown up in the hill country of Texas. He educated us on the importance of taking care of our planet and the forests and trees and animals, etc. In Panama he let us have several parrots that we kept outdoors in cages. We also had several parakeets that we adored that followed us all over the house.

While living in Panama in 1953, Dad decided we would go to Panama City one weekend to see Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip who made Panama their first foreign stop after her coronation. The public was invited to the parade. “None of us has seen a queen and probably will never see one again so we are going to this celebration,” my dad declared. In wild anticipation we loaded into the car with my brother Charles age 12 , me age 11, and sister Mary age 5. Mom and the two younger siblings, one a baby and the other a toddler, stayed home . Thousands of people jammed the streets with bands playing and people dancing. It was pandemonium, and we held each other’s hands tightly. At some point a white convertible drove through the crowded streets with the Queen and Prince Phillip and we got as close as we could to get a tiny glimpse of the Queen. I think I briefly saw her head partially covered by a small hat, but I’m not sure we ever got a really close look at her. But the magic of the moment lit up our lives for several days as we proudly told everyone we had “seen the Queen!” It certainly made all of us happy, including Dad.

After he retired from the Army, Dad continued to love hiking and camping and exploring caves and generally being outdoors. We moved to New Mexico for several years where we had a cow that had to be milked and Dad made sure we learned how to do it more or less. We also had chickens to care for and a mean rooster that chased us everytime we gathered eggs. It was a beautiful area close to Capitan and Lincoln, NM, with mountains nearby and antelope and elk often visible in the distance. It was an idyllic place to live although we eventually moved back to San Antonio, Texas, where most of our relatives were.

I am forever grateful that through his example my father taught us to be good stewards of this earth and its treasures.

Judy Lockhart DiGregorio is a humorist, speaker, and the author of three humor books and a CD from Celtic Cat Publishing, Knoxville, TN -- Books: Life Among the Lilliputians, Memories of a Loose Woman, Tidbits, and CD: Jest Judy.

Email Judy