Weekly Local Biography

  Dr. Rebecca Lomax

After an hour in the company of Rebecca Lomax I could describe her in two words. Eloquent and elegant! However, there is much to this woman, who with her husband Frank Weicks, has made Chiang Mai her home.

She was born in Laurel, Mississippi, a company town, only remembered for the building material Masonite that was invented there. Her father was a newspaperman and ran a small printing business. Rebecca said, “I grew up with newspapers. My first job was proofreading for 10 baht an hour when aged nine. But homework came first,” she quickly added. Her parents also instilled into the family that they had a responsibility, to “give back” to their communities.

She was forward academically right from the start, and was lucky that she had an elder sister who taught her to read and write before she was old enough to go to school. After that head start, school was obviously a breeze for the bright young girl, but when she finished school she did not know where her career path really lay. “I hadn’t worked it out - and I’m still trying to work that out!” she said with a laugh.

She went to university to study biology as she felt that she wanted to do something related to science, but when she got married she went to work to help the family finances. She secured a position in a psychiatric hospital for the chronically mentally ill. This led her towards the social sciences and she took qualifications as a Social Worker. It was a time of change in the US. Segregation had been outlawed and other societal steps forward. “Social work seemed a place I wanted to be,” explained Rebecca simply. Later she was to take a Masters degree and Doctorate in Social Work.

After the mental hospital, where everyone wanted to say they were normal so they could get out, her next employer was the prisons service. “This was very different. Everybody wanted to be mentally ill!” Rebecca explained. Two years was enough for Assistant Warden Lomax!

However, she did know that social work was really her true field and she accepted a post in social work through the Catholic church (even though she was not a Catholic) to look after the poor. This was in the greater New Orleans area, and with the liberalization of society, people were being able to leave institutions. However, they often would not know what to do, or how to look after themselves, they had become so institutionalized. To assist in this area, Rebecca wrote programs for social workers to follow, so that these people could be reintroduced to life outside (the so-called ‘normal’ life).

After 15 years of working with the Catholic charities, husband Frank came home with a bombshell. He was asked to transfer to Chiang Mai in Thailand. Rebecca freely admits that her first thoughts were, “Where is Chiang Mai, Thailand?” (What some local people may find difficult to understand is that for many people on the other side of the world, they do not know where Thailand is, not being one of the G8 super powers, no matter what some politicians might have you believe!) Her second thoughts were, “Do I really want to leave the peace and security for something unknown?” They discussed their hopes and fears. The family was old enough to take care of themselves, what had they to lose? “We decided this was something we would do for us.”

It was 1998, and they arrived here, never having been to Asia before. As has happened with so many of us, they fell in love with it. Frank had a job, but Rebecca did not. “Something will come up,” she said. “That was the first time in my life I’d ever thought that way.” That “something” did not come up immediately, with Rebecca saying, “The first year I was here I read 226 books. I was having a sabbatical from life,” was the way she described those 12 months, but then something did come up.

This was a group called the Elder Hostel in America, which is a travel group of older Americans who want to learn about their destinations. “I set up a lecture group for three weeks of intensive training,” said our retired social worker. “It was a nice source of meeting other people with like interests.”

The sabbatical over, she has thrown herself back into the social work field. She has run training sessions for the Thai Social Services, in working with abused children, she is a fervent member of FERC (the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children), and the Tennis is My Dream group that gives young Thai children the opportunity to play the game, which could see them as the next Paradorn or Tammy. Of course, these are only a few of the groups that take up her time, experience and abilities these days. “Frank finds social issues, so that gives me work.” In fact, one of Frank’s familiar phrases is, “Becky will help you with that!” and with Frank taking over one of the local Rotary Clubs, he will find many more.

Her main hobby is reading. The nine year old proof-reader is still reading, “even if it’s just cereal boxes,” said Rebecca. If she’s not reading, then she is writing, something that she really enjoys, even if it is just the once a month letter home to family and friends. (She also pens the occasional articles for Chiangmai Mail, which are always informative.)

Her other enjoyment is travel, which they are now doing regularly, through Asia and back to the US each year. “My aim is travel and more travel,” said the lady who certainly does know, these days, just where Chiang Mai Thailand really is!

As we concluded the interview Dr. Rebecca Lomax said, “Life is good. I am getting great pleasure from my life here. I am living my dream.” Many of us sincerely hope that dream continues!