Wilson County pioneer Hale Moss died Monday evening after he fell ill upon his arrival at the Wilson County Commission meeting and was transported to Tennova Heathcare in Lebanon.
According to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Moss arrived at the courthouse and made it to a bench and was attended to by an acquaintance until help could arrive.
Moss is an iconic figure in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County at large. He was recently inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame, and also was "roasted" by county business people and dignitaries. Just last week the decision was made to name a Wilson County Ag Center barn in his honor. He spent years promoting the Wilson County Fair and was known as the "go-to guy" at Wilson County Promotions.
Longtime friend and fellow Wilson County Fair Board member Wanda McKee spoke highly of Moss before the roast.
"Our honoree (Moss) is a dreamer," she said. "Many good things have happened in our county and state due to his involvement and leadership. If you want to know more about Hale - he never promotes himself. He always takes the backseat so that others can shine."
However, in Mt. Juliet, Moss was known as the owner, along with wife Brenda, of Moss' Florist and Garden Center. It's North Mt. Juliet's oldest business, in operation for 39 years on Lebanon Road. In January 2017 Moss and Brenda relocated the business to North Mt. Juliet Road and Moss unofficially retired. Moss suffered a stroke two years ago, and friends said he suffered another minor one recently prior to his death Monday night.
Early on, Moss was a VoAg teacher at Lebanon High School and then worked with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as director of fairs and livestock shows. He took over the family seed and flower business in 1977.
James E. Ward Agricultural Center and Wilson County School Board Chair Larry Tomlinson knew Moss for over 30 years.
"I got to see him on Easter at the Bridge Fellowship service, and I'm glad I was able to talk to him," Tomlinson said. "He was just a genuine guy. He was the glue that was behind a lot of Wilson County Promotions. It's a tremendous loss, and I considered him a friend. I know he's in a better place right now."
Hutto said Moss was a "pioneer in Wilson County."
"What I loved was he took what he loved doing as a high school teacher, then took it into the business and community," Hutto said. "And, I think what Hale liked to do is see people get together and celebrate. That's why he loved the fair so much and helped it grow to be nationally known."
Hutto said Moss loved to teach people how food gets to the table and would show children "chocolate milk doesn't come from a brown cow."
"He liked to spread the word, and he did as a teacher, a florist and president of the fair," Hutto said.
Hutto mentioned what was "remarkable" about Moss was his ability to lead.
Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin also knew Moss for over 30 years.
"We met early on, before I was city manager," he said. "He was a good human being and very civic-minded. He was very instrumental in leading Wilson County. What I remember most he was a big tall man with a gentle heart."
Moss' nursery is in Mt. Juliet City Commissioner Ray Justice's district.
"I've known him all my life," he said. "The Moss family is in my thoughts and prayers. It's a great loss."
Moss recently said he'd visited 11 state fairgrounds in the U.S. and hoped to visit more.
In January, Moss told The Wilson Post it was bittersweet to move out of the family business building.
"It's bittersweet, but this is good timing for us," he said then. "We've been here a long time. We've got a lot of great customers and memories."
Moss noted at the time that while much of the old Mt. Juliet is gone, "There are a lot of good new people here and it's a strong civics-minded community."
The Mosses have a son Joe and daughter-in-law Lauren.