As Father's Day nears, there is something weighing on my mind, and dear to my heart, that I want to share with you: Earlier this year, my father and founder of SouthOrd Locksmith Tools, Larry Newberry, passed away.
One of my favorite photos of Dad when he was young: Hunting for arrowheads in Tennessee
I’ve been debating about whether to write this for a while now. We don’t share many personal aspects of our company, like that SouthOrd is a family-owned and operated business. But Dad gave his all to make this business succeed, and a recent trip to his childhood home gave me a new appreciation for the man that he was. So I want to honor his memory, and to share a little of his life with you…
My dad was raised with his brother, from a young age, in Livingston, TN, by his widowed grandmother, Granny Pearl. Granny Pearl was an honest and hard-working woman, and the boys’ needs were, quite literally, provided for by her hands – Granny Pearl sewed the boys’ clothes. She grew their vegetables out in the garden, and meat was smoked out back in the smoke-shed. Rainwater was collected in a cistern and pumped out for use, with home-made soap, to wash laundry. This humble origin was the root of my dad’s core values: hard work and providing for family. And, it also was the seed to wanting something more.
Granny Pearl, in front of her home in Livingston, Tennessee
While my dad and his brother were raised by Granny Pearl at a young age, his parents moved to Indiana to establish life there. Both his father, a veteran of World War II, and his mother worked at Guide Lamp, assembling headlights for General Motors vehicles. My dad and his brother came to live with their parents in Indiana in their early teens. There, my dad finished out school, went to police academy, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and in mathematics.
My dad's parents, Bedford and Roselle Newberry
Dad, by his patrol car in Anderson, Indiana
Dad served as police officer in Indiana for several years, while I was young. He worked at the local PAL Club (the Police Athletic League), and was a boxer there. I vaguely remember going to the PAL Club when I was little, but I never saw his fights. Most memories that I have of Dad, when I was that young, were of him, and a few of his friends, playing music together in our living room—my dad playing either on the banjo or the guitar.
Dad, on the right, playing guitar in our living room in Indiana
After his service at the police department in Anderson, when we moved to Florida, Dad became a parole officer, he taught mathematics at a local community college, and he worked for the Postal Service for many, many years. He was a hard worker, driven to provide for his family, but he aspired to succeed in something he created himself. Over the years, while he was working in his various professions, he started a number of businesses, including a gun shop, and a mail-order company, Turtle Island, which sold unique items from around the world, like alpaca sweaters from South America, and Schott Naval pea coats.
Then, in the late 1980’s, Dad started a new business, Southern Ordnance, which initially sold brass knuckles, knives and self defense products, and locksmith tools from some of the most well-known brands at the time, HPC and Majestic. His ideas to improve the quality and design of lock picking tools on the market inspired him to begin SouthOrd Locksmith Tools, with the introduction of stainless steel lock picks, rivetless stainless handles, aluminum electric lock picks, and the SouthOrd original-design jackknife lock pick set.
Over the years, SouthOrd has worked to build a reputation of quality tools, innovative design and excellent service. These are values my husband and I strived to maintain in the 20-plus years we have worked with my dad, and in the more recent years that we have run the business for him. And we will continue to run SouthOrd with these same values.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing this glimpse of my dad with me. He was an absolutely amazing man. He was sharp and funny. He was complex and driven. He loved his family deeply. He was genuine, and he lived life on his own terms. I am honored to have known him, and grateful to have had him as my dad. ~ Megan