Friday, May 14, 2010

Heart and Soul


I don't remember what day it was. I was either coming from or going to one of my many doctor appointments the week of April 5, when I passed by his house. As always, I glanced toward the porch, hoping to find him there, even though in my heart, I knew he wouldn't be. Instead, I found the porch and small front yard filled with men in suits, women in dresses. Apprehension filled my soul and, resigned to the inevitability, I uttered an audible, "oh, no."

Opening The Ashland City Times the following week, I turned immediately with an almost certain dread to the obituaries. There it was, in black and white. Jack Moore had died.

His name was Herman Richard Moore, but somewhere along life's path, he had been dubbed Jack. He was born on April 6, 1926 and died one day before his birthday eighty three years later. He had buried his parents, four brothers, and a grandson before him, but left behind one brother, four sisters, four daughters, and a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. There were many more friends and family, including his wife, Edith Simpson Moore. They had been married sixty four years.

I had worried last spring, when I hadn't seen him on the porch even when the weather had been warm for weeks. Van, at the hardware store, relayed that Jack's health had deteriorated over the winter, and he had been placed in a nursing home. I held hope high that he would return home, to his humble white cottage on Pleasant View Road.

But he didn't. I never saw him again.

Who was this Jack Moore, that his death has touched me so? It's hard for me to answer that, since I had never even met the man. He wasn't a relative; he held no public office, owned no business, and certainly was no celebrity. Perhaps his only claim to fame was that his photo, the one above, hung front and center in the Pleasant View Diner. Fred had met him on several occasions, and our son knew him quite well; he was a frequent visitor at Van's Hardware Store when Prince Charming had worked there.

Frequent visitor? No, he was part of the store, almost a fixture. He usually arrived when the store opened at 7:30 in the morning, went home around lunch time, and often returned later in the day. He talked of his working days at Werthan Bag Company in Nashville, where he began employment in 1963...at $1.00 per hour; of how he knew it was time to get out of bed every morning when his wife slid a pan of homemade biscuits into the oven. She awoke at 3:45 to make those biscuits and get her family ready for the day. You could just about bet that if Jack Moore wasn't down at the hardware store, retelling his stories, swapping jokes and innocent gossip with Van and community folk, he was at home, sitting on the front porch.

For that's what Jack did: he sat on the front porch. He counted cars. And he waved. He waved at every passing vehicle, be it friend, family, or stranger. And we waved back.

When he bought his little house, for $4000, Pleasant View was a tiny community, and his residence was virtually the last house in town before the creek bridge that led to farms and wide open spaces. But as the farmers sold their acres, and subdivisions began to dot the countryside, Pleasant View Road became a busy thoroughfare, and hurried travelers often ignored the posted thirty mile an hour speed limit. "I better go see what's goin' on out on that freeway," Jack was heard to say of the street.

But the increase in traffic didn't impede his self imposed role as Pleasant View's one man hospitality committee. His arm was often held high multiple times a minute, for he never let a car go by that didn't receive one of his friendly waves.

In a public acknowledgement in the newspaper the week following his funeral, the family issued thanks for the many prayers, visits, foods, flowers, and cards that had come their way. They closed with, "For all those that traveled Pleasant View Road daily and took the time to wave at Jack - a special thank you."

No, he was not a person of great importance in the world; he was a simple man, living a quiet small town life; but he was the heart and soul of Pleasant View.

Our little town won't be the same without him. For with his passing, we lost one of the last vestiges of the simple life. Our town now has a sprinkling of fast food restaurants, a video store, even a small hospital. We have a traffic light and a new city park under construction. The population has more than doubled in the fourteen years since we moved here. And it will continue to grow, as more people flee the cities and seek a simpler life, cleaner air, and better schools.

But the new people will never know that the heart of Pleasant View once lay in the soul of one man. One man who left a legacy of kindness and friendship upon a small Southern town. One man...named Jack Moore.

Thank you, Jack, and sleep well.

Fred and Ethel Go to Disneyworld

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