Retired Army Colonel Lora Tucker (the second born child among five siblings) is originally from Morehead, Kentucky. Previously a resident of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, she decided to make a move to Greenville, South Carolina in early 2020.
Around this same time, Tucker found a deeper sense of the importance of cherishing loved ones and living life fully when she lost her little sister to stage four neuroendocrine cancer. “She died within a year, was in the hospital and we couldn’t even go see her [due to COVID-19 protocols]. It was a really tough loss for the family. You don’t know what life is going to bring you from one day to the next – you have to live your life now. Not that you shouldn’t save for the future, but there has to be balance. Don’t wait to go on that bucket list trip, don’t wait to tell someone you love them or to pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t talked to in months.”
While residing in Ft. Lauderdale, Tucker proudly held the position of CEO of Center Link [2017-2019], a non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening, supporting and connecting LGBTQ Community Centers nationwide. The organization “…provides professional development and assists newly formed centers [as they] find their footing [by] helping with boards and staff development.”
Already having had quite a full life, Tucker enjoyed working with Center Link and the move to Greenville wasn’t about slowing down, finding a rocking chair and new yarn to knit with.
Quite the contrary. Tucker, supported by her wife of 22 years, Tucker left the army ready to continue to put her leadership skills to good use. Though retired from the military, Tucker hasn’t forgotten why her skill set is needed and valuable.
She also hasn’t forgotten how challenging the army experience was for lesbian and gay military personnel enlisted during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, like she was. The discriminatory regulation was rescinded just one month before Tucker retired. In reflection, the Colonel shared how the trying experience often left her wife unsupported by military personnel.
The two met at Pleiades, a women’s camp in North Carolina [1995-2005], which took its name from a story in Greek mythology about seven sisters who were changed into a cluster of stars by the Greek God Zeus. At the time, says Tucker, “I was stationed in Georgia when I was in the military and used to go there on weekends and help out. They had events with women entertainers, musical performances, comedy and white-water rafting. That’s how we met, during a white-water rafting event. She said she had never given her number to anyone, but she gave it to me and told her friends, “How dare that woman not call me” – I was deployed [shortly after receiving the phone number] and I was out of the country.”
Tucker did eventually call. Eventually the two became a couple, and later, they were married. “My wife was not able to participate in any military based family support efforts. I was in Cuba once and she was basically on her own as far as support. It was difficult.”
As for her feelings about how such a regulation impacts so many LGBTQ service members and their loved ones, she doesn’t retain any bitterness. “I’m proud it’s finally been rescinded. You no longer have to lie to get in, though I don’t know what’s going to happen with our trans brothers and sisters. With all the injustices [on behalf of the United States], I still think this is the best country in the world and would have given my life for it.”
Today, Tucker also looks back at her military experience and credits it with easing the path to her current life as CEO of Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands, which requires her to maintain two residents in different locations.
Tucker explained, “During the week I stay in a lovely little house with a friend in the West End of Greenville, but my home is actually in the Bluffton area. We chose to buy a home in Bluffton for retirement. It’s not easy. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive [to work] and my CEO schedule is action packed. My wife, having been a military spouse, is understanding, it’s something she’s used to at this point. It is a sacrifice, like having me deployed in the past. She understands what I’m doing and that I love leadership.”
During our conversation, Tucker passionately spoke at length about the joy of providing leadership with the Girl Scouts. And we believe her, because this position is not Tucker’s first stint with the organization. From 2010 to 2015 she served as the CEO for the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, residing in Louisville, Kentucky at the time.
Why the fascination with Girl Scouts, we asked. “Because I love leadership and I actually love growing this organization and building girls of courage, confidence and character that make the world a better place.” It’s as simple as that for Tucker.
When asked what it’s been like being an out lesbian leader with the organization, particularly in light of the scandals and intolerance we’ve heard and read about the Boy Scouts, Tucker replied, “Girl Scouts, for the most part, has always been an inclusive organization.”
She went on to say, though commonly misunderstood, the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts are not “one” organization. “The Boy Scout’s history of sexual abuse caught up with them. It’s horrific and tragic. Their membership dropped and they started recruiting girls and calling themselves Scouts. It’s very confusing for our members.”
Meanwhile, in the Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands, Tucker continues to advocate within a safe all-girls space void of e-devices, “You want girls today to develop a sense of self, middle school can be vicious. In Girl Scouts, they are learning how to build healthy relationships and how to make a difference in their communities before high school and college. They learn how to identify a need and make an action plan.”
So, what about Tucker’s action plan for her personal life. With such a demanding career we had to wonder, when does such a person find time to sleep? How does a leader with a wife, dog and hectic schedule find time to relax and recharge? According to Tucker, she sleeps on average eight hours nightly.
“That’s important. Gotta get your hours in.” When she’s not sleeping or thinking up new strategies for cultivating a better tomorrow, she and her wife (a chef who makes great sauces and homemade pasta) love enjoying the outdoors.
“We have a two-year-old Standard Poodle puppy; we love to walk. We ride our bikes and love to travel.”
This holiday season the two look forward to flying to Germany for a Viking River Cruise to Budapest to see the Christmas markets. “It’s a big German thing, like a Hallmark movie, with snow, chorus singing carols, Christmas trees and German Christmas ornaments,” she offered enthusiastically.
“We also love reading and listening to live music. We’re each other’s best friends so we enjoy our time together and our time with family and friends.”
Of her relationship longevity she explained, “Relationships aren’t easy. Communication is some of the hardest work we do. My relationship is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, and it’s so worth it, every single moment.”
As we brought our interview to a close, we asked Tucker about her retirement plans. Based on her response, it might be safe to say she has no plans of ever doing such a thing.
“Leading with my heart and my [recently formed] coaching company. I believe there is such a lack of love in leadership today. When you look at feminine leadership, that skill set is the important part of leadership that is needed in our world and organizations today.
“When you lead with love, generally care about your employees, your team and show compassion, offer good training, equitable pay and proper onboarding; you create an incredibly positive culture at work where people are learning and giving 100 percent. You’ve created a safe space where people are motivated to try and be innovative. And that’s what you want.”