Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the loss of longtime Kent Community Development Department Director Gary Locke today.
Locke died over the weekend after a 13-month battle with leukemia.
The 32-year employee of the city of Kent spent nearly his entire professional career in the community planning office.
Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said as a senior member of the city's administration Locke played an instrumental role in Kent's more than $100 million downtown redevelopment.
"Gary will always live forever in the city of Kent because of that foundation he left behind," Fiala said. "That’s his legacy."
Locke was a Ravenna resident and 1974 graduate of Ravenna High School. He graduated from the University of Akron in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education and returned to receive a master's degree in urban planning in 1980 — the year he started his career with the Tree City.
As development director Locke played a large role in the city's recent updating of its zoning code and other planning documents that govern development in the city's neighborhoods.
Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said he will forever see Locke in the many places he touched around town.
"His fingerprints are everywhere and that's a big part of what makes Kent a special place," Ruller wrote in an email informing members of Kent City Council of Locke's death. "I only wish he had more time to enjoy the downtown revitalization that he worked so hard to create."
Locke was a member of the Ohio Conference of Community Development and served as the group's president for 2003-2004. He was a National Development Council Certified Economic Development Finance Professsional.
In his 32 years in Kent Locke came to know many of the city's administrators as friends, Fiala said.
"He was one of those people that you didn’t just give your respect. He earned your respect," Fiala said. "And that was a meaningful thing for all of us."
Despite his illness, Locke continued to work when his health permitted.
"He was an exceptional Community Development Director, but he was an even better person," Ruller said. "Nearing the end of his days Gary talked about how humbled he was by the outpouring of support from his co-workers, so it's no coincidence that he spent his final healthy days wanting to be at work, around his peers that shared his desire to help people. Gary had a big heart and it showed in everything he did."
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
A private luncheon set for Tuesday that had been scheduled for Locke to meet with friends and colleagues will continue as planned.
Fiala said he will present members of Locke's family with a key to the city during Tuesday's luncheon and a proclomation in honor of his 32 years of service.
"He helped educate me to make me a better person," Fiala said.