A Life Lived: Harry Stout held the key that unlocked a lot of doors

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, March 8, 2022

BY ROZELLA HARDIN
Editorial Director
Harry T. Stout unlocked a lot of doors in his lifetime, but none as important as the one to his heart, which only he could open, and that he did freely.
Harry, who died February 20, at the age of 94, was a locksmith by trade, but he freely gave of his love and time all day long, seven days a week. His smile brightened lives and his handshake was one of confidence and friendship.
His son, Tom, noted that Harry sometimes worked 12 to 16 hours a day, and rarely complained. “He was a giving person, very compassionate. He would do anything he could to help someone,” Tom shared.
Harry’s was a line of work that brought him into contact with people, who had a need. He not only opened their locked doors, but he opened his heart to them, calming them and reassuring them when they often were upset at themselves for losing a car key or locking it in their vehicle or locking themselves out of the house.
Harry wasn’t always a locksmith. He started out as a truck driver, driving for Beaunit Fibers. Tom shared that his father went to truck driving school at the University of North Carolina. “He finished first in a class of 64,” Tom shared with pride.
When Beaunit closed, Harry got into the locksmith business, taking classes online and becoming a master locksmith. He founded his own business in 1967. “He loved the locksmith business and had a lot of friends in the business,” Tom shared.
Harry grew up in the Watauga community and went to school at the old Lynn Avenue School and Elizabethton High, as well as Range School. When he attended school, there were no school buses and few cars. He and his brother and sisters would walk to school, crossing the Watauga River via an old swinging bridge behind the rayon plants and walking to Lynn Avenue School. When the old swinging bridge was washed away, they walked up the old Watauga Road and crossed the old iron bridge at Lynn Avenue to get to school.
Later, Harry served in the U.S. Army, during both World War II and the Korean Conflict. “He was proud of his military service and loved his country,” said Tom. Harry was a member of both, the Captain Lynn H. Folsom VFW Post No. 2166 and the American Legion. He was also a member of the United States Constabulary, American Motorcyclist Association, and could often be seen riding his motorcycle in local parades downtown. In fact, he didn’t quit riding his motorcycle until about a year before he died. Tom said his father fell in love with motorcycles when his brother, Sam, bought a 1929 Indian. “Dad was only two years old at the time, and he would tell about sitting and looking at that motorcycle…and dreaming.” When he got older, he would get his own motorcycle and would race it at the track in Blackbottom. He owned a 1946 Indian motorcycle, and had owned it for years.
He often attended the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio.
For several years Harry used his locksmith skills to make sure that all of the county’s voting machines were thoroughly checked and ready for each election. He last worked the presidential election of 2020.
Harry enjoyed his work as a truck driver and locksmith as well as his involvement in the VFW and American Legion, but he was most proud of being a Christian and his church at Fairview Baptist. He had been a member of the church for 80 years. His son shared that his father for the past two or three years had attended church with him and his wife, Debbie, at First Baptist.
Harry had few hobbies outside of work, but he was a collector. He collected small steam engines, miniature motorcycles and trucks, knives, watches, and belt buckles, just to name a few of his collector items.
Harry was also a history buff and loved to share his stories with others.
For the past 13 years he had lived alone and according to his son did quite well living alone. “He was a fair cook, but eat out a lot and with me and my wife,” said Tom.
In addition to Tom, Harry had three other children, Sam, Cheryl Shell, and Pat Stout. He also had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Harry, although he suffered from cancer in the end, kept his sense of humor, continued to wear a smile, and was always interested in others and in church.
But, not too long ago, he hung up his keys. He had found the right combination to the door of heaven many years ago, and it was stowed away in his heart.
Harry Stout proved that for all the doors locked, love is the best locksmith.

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