"Hawkeye" Ken Locke Goes "Home" To Marshalltown, Iowa After Tornado

Aug 29, 2018

On July 19th in the afternoon Marshalltown, Iowa was hit with a Category 3 Tornado which ripped down the middle of the city.  Ken Locke, affectionately known as "Hawkeye" in some circles grew up in "M-Town" but now serves as the Community Ministries Director in Warsaw, Indiana.  "I was devastated when I heard the news," he recently shared.  "At the same time I was packing and getting ready to go.  I called my supervisor Major Welch and went through the channels to get permission to head to Iowa."  Locke had just been there for a reunion that was held at the church he grew up in, Bethany United Methodist Church, which had closed in 2013 and now a Hispanic congregation.  The storm ripped the roof off of that structure and the building is condemned.  The Salvation Army Corps and Community Center on State Street took a hard hit as well as the neighborhood where "Kenny" grew up at Fourth and Bromley.  "When I got to Marshalltown I met the Salvation Army personnel and volunteers who were working out of the Hy-Vee Parking lot,"  Locke continued.  "I met Captain Pam Kasten, Corps Officer, and others and just sat down and started crying.  I looked over at the Courthouse and saw that the cupola had been ripped off.  After we met I drove down to familiar streets that now looked like a war zone."  Unbelievably no one was killed when the twister hit.  There were some injuries but the damage was extensive.  The Salvation Army had rolled its sleeves up serving in any way possible.  Water, sandwiches, hugs and prayers were given out all around as the Canteens "invaded" the city.  "The amazing thing is that people just kept coming wanting to help.  I told many of them to just go to "Fourth & Bromley" and look for someone working.  They would jump in their vehicles and taking off to step forward."  Locke went down in the area to help as well.  "I was two doors down from where I grew up and there was a crew helping carry debris away from a house that was totally destroyed.  All of a sudden I heard my nephew, Nathan, call my name.  He was there helping and didn't know I had gotten back to town.  We hugged sharing sweat and tears in that mess."  The garage where Ken and his Dad worked on many projects was gone, although the work bench still sat in the same place on the foundation.  "We thank God we got our Mom moved out to the Iowa Veteran's Home three years ago," he sighed with relief.  The "old homestead" looked pretty rough and damaged."  It was finally decided that the Salvation Army operation would be moved to the Thrift Store on 13th Street after electricity was restored.   One of the trucks had been flipped over on its side.  The Corps Van had been totally damaged.  But donations kept rolling in like clothing, ice, food (including pet food) and good used items.  A MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) was set-up at Marshalltown High School in the gymnasium, known affectionately as the "Roundhouse".  "The tables for The Salvation Army were placed right by the Bobcat logo in the middle of the gym floor!", Locke exclaimed.  "It was like "old home week" as people came through the line, some I had graduated and not seen for 40+ years.  If you had told me in 1975 that I would be praying with people in the middle of that gym in years to come I would not have believed it."  Ken some times felt like he was in a "Twilight Zone" episode.  "It was surreal," he noted.  "At the same time we were able to share Jesus and even laugh with people who were facing great loss and pain.  The joy of the Holy Spirit helped us get through and bless others in the name of Jesus."  

In the middle of the craziness God decided to call Ken's mother home.  "It was in God's plan to have me back where I grew up to say farewell to a wonderful woman who gave me life and taught me to be the man I am today," Locke recalled.  "I would work all day and then go up to the Iowa Veteran's Home (IVH) to see her and my family."  Once Ken told his mother he didn't have as much time to see her as he wished and she replied, "Go to work!"  "She was part of the Greatest Generation, working at Marshalltown Manufacturing during World War II as a "Rosie The Riveter," the son shared proudly.  "She grew up in The Salvation Army as a girl and later in life attended the Women's Ministry program and volunteered as well."  The "matron" of Locke's family was "Promoted To Glory" on Sunday, July 29th and laid to rest on August 1st.  "I was totally exhausted after all of that but I sensed a deep joy in my heart for serving and trusting Jesus, even in the hardest times," he noted. 

Before he left town Ken stopped by the little church where he had grown up, seeing people out there who were salvaging what they could from the wreckage.  They gathered in a circle and prayed after talking for awhile.  One of the men looked up afterwards and said, "God is the God of the storm.  We trust the God of the storm."  Locke concluded by saying, "I will never forget what he said.  As a follower of Christ I trust the God who oversees all of life, both good and bad.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we can be forgiven of our sins and give to others out of a love for what He has done for us.  I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future!"

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