Merriam-Webster defines neighbor as “a person who lives near another.” Given Signal Mountain’s size, we’re all neighbors. You know you can’t go to Pruett’s, the Post Office or Ayala’s and just run “in and out”.

But there are some neighbors who go the extra mile and become more than just a person living nearby. Joe Lockhart is one of these people.

Joe planted his family on Signal more than 50 years ago; I can’t remember a time when my family didn’t know Joe…and his honey bees (yes, they’re a package deal!)

Joe was and is a hero. As close to 7 feet tall as a man can get, Joe towered over all of us kids growing up. He served in the Army, was a World Class fast pitch softball player in Chattanooga’s Textile League (he turned down a pro offer to raise his family), then coached me and hundreds of Signal kids in Dixie Youth Baseball. He is the humble patriarch of 4 great generations on Signal, many of whom still live on our hilltop. After years of faithfully helping any neighbor in need, Joe has earned the nickname “Mayor of Gray Fryar Road”.

The years have passed, and I still look up to him.

I don’t know where he found the time, but Joe has been a master bee-keeper for 50+ years, generously sharing his skills, passion and a valuable lesson about the kind of neighbor I want to be.

Each year since the 1960s—without fail and without fanfare—a bear-full of Signal’s finest sourwood honey “magically” appears in my family’s mailbox and the mailboxes of all our neighbors. No note. No signature. But I know who put it there…and why.

Joe’s honey bear simply says, “I care, I hope all is well, and I’m here if you need me.” Joe’s beautiful wife Jo Ann says they used to load up their 4 kids on Christmas eve and sneak the bears into the neighborhood mail boxes. Joe’s daughter, now a big city lawyer, says she and her family carry on this “secret” tradition in their suburban Atlanta neighborhood. Like Joe, they aren’t looking for credit, they’re just “bee-ing” neighborly….Signal Mountain neighborly.

My lesson from Joe and his honey bears? If you have an extra-special neighbor, one who is a role model, helps, and invests without expecting anything in return, let them know how much it means to you…and go and do likewise.

Take a note from Joe: Bee Neighborly,


If you would like some Lockhart Signal Mountain sourwood honey, Joe’s son (who has taken up his father’s hobby) may have some at

If you get it from Joe, you’ll find an honor system “money sock” hanging by the hive that says “Take the honey and leave the money.”

Signal Stories Bee-ing Neighborly
Bee-ing Neighborly

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