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Sam and Anna Lockwood spent most of their lives in Hickory Woods, raised their kids there and, in the end, had only one wish -- to get out of the contaminated neighborhood before they died.

It never happened.

Mrs. Lockwood, 78, was buried Wednesday, a victim of complications associated with her leukemia. Her death came just 20 months after her 81-year-old husband died of cancer.

More than anyone else in Hickory Woods, the Lockwoods came to symbolize the struggle within the South Buffalo community. The neighborhood is contaminated with coke waste and possible cancer-causing chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Like so many others, the Lockwoods wanted out of the neighborhood, and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello had personally promised to help find a way to get them out of their house sooner than expected.

Lockwood died shortly afterward, and his wife, paralyzed and in a wheelchair, became ill with leukemia. She died Saturday (Nov. 23, 2002) in her home on Abby Street.

"She wanted to get out," said her niece, Gail Block, who helped care for her. "It took a toll on her toward the end. It was just too much for her."

Mrs. Lockwood's family doesn't blame the city or anyone else, but they concede it would have been nice if their mother's last wish had been fulfilled before she died.

"They were the type of people who always made sure everyone else was taken care of," said her daughter Judith Grove of Cheektowaga. "They always wanted to do what was right, what was right for everyone else."

When the contamination at Hickory Woods came to light, the Lockwoods were one of the first families to speak out. They quickly became part of the human story behind the contamination, a symbol of the anger among families stuck in the neighborhood.

On Valentine's Day of last year, Sam Lockwood met with a reporter and spoke of his frustration in trying to sell a house no one wanted and of his last wish, finding a safe place for his wife to live.

Lockwood, a tall, thin man, talked candidly of his concerns and how he felt like "a prisoner in his own house." He paused only once, when the reporter asked about the possibility that he might leave his wife behind, not knowing where she may go or who may care for her.

"We just don't know what to do," he said, his voice cracking for the first time.

Mrs. Lockwood's survivors include another daughter, Nancy Jane of West Seneca; a son, Samuel J. of Lockport; a sister, Rosalie White of Buffalo; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral was held Wednesday. Burial was in Hillcrest Cemetery, Hamburg.


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