A collective sigh of sadness was heard when hundreds gathered Monday to say a final farewell and celebrate the life and legacy of Wilson County pioneer Hale Moss.
"The torch is now ours to carry," said memorial officiant Bro. Chuck Groover. "Hale did not build a legacy for himself, but built a heritage to be embraced. Take up the torch and allow the dream to continue as we walk in the footsteps of a giant man."
In what all said was the most fitting and perfect final ride home, Mt. Juliet's Hale Moss, 68 - who died unexpectedly April 17 doing what he loved at the Wilson County commission
meeting - was escorted in a splendid mule-drawn carriage hearse through his beloved namesake Fiddlers Grove antique settlement one last time.
An antique black car followed his carriage where his widow Brenda, son, and daughter-law sat. Hundreds who lined the small road at the Wilson County Agriculture Center in respect and admiration to Moss' life of service to Wilson County were joined by others who followed the somber short route through the place Moss conceived years ago. A delicate white dove was released when the loop was completed. People murmured, "He was a good man. He would have loved this bow to Wilson County heritage."
However, he was humble and most likely would have liked to defer the attention from himself to his loved Ag Center and Fiddlers Grove, even while more than 500 people came to celebrate his life.
Hundreds descended upon the Wilson County Expo Center Monday afternoon in respect of Moss. The center's giant hall was filled with memorials to his life, with many vignettes evoking his life and love of UT, students, civic endeavors, fair fun, flowers, friends, family and many awards and accolades.
It's safe to say this was the most attended funeral service in recent history in Wilson County. Most known as long-time president of the Wilson County Fair for 38 years when he led the fair with his loyal 330-plus volunteers to make the fair one of the top in Tennessee, he's also remembered as proprietor of Moss' Florist and Garden Center in Mt. Juliet with wife Brenda for 39 years.
The accolades are numerous. While his name is synonymous with the Wilson County Fair, he was previously an Ag teacher at Lebanon High School and was recently inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame. He suffered a stroke a couple years ago and was in recovery prior to his death.
Moss loved his time on their family farm, Knobblehurst, on Saundersville Road in Mt. Juliet. If you asked him why he spent thousands of hours working on and improving the Wilson County Fair," he'd simply answer, "It is all about the kids."
Lifelong friend Joe Elliott of UT's Alpha Gamma Rho talked of life in the dorm with Moss.
"He was a perfect gentleman," he said. "More mature mentally than most of us at UT. Even more than the professors. He knew how to handle any situation. He loved a good time, but could be serious."
Elliott parlayed many fun stories about Moss in his younger years.
"He rose to the top of every endeavor he took," he said.
Elliott name some of Moss' traits; tenacity, strong work ethic; willingness to listen and wisdom.
Randall Clemons spoke about his dear friend and often was tremulous in his tribute.
"Hale had a strong servant's heart," he said. "Charles and Eileen brought Hale at age 10 to the Wilson County Fair. He showed his first pepper then."
Clemons said Moss for the last 38 years was a friend to all the volunteers at the fair.
"Brenda was always at his side," he said. "He wanted Hwy. 109 to be a unifier and not a divider. The place he died was no accident. He would have said, 'Thank you County Commission for supporting the Wilson County Fair.'"
Groover concluded the memorial with comments about how Moss lived in the moment, and not for the moment.
"He was an amazing man and had an amazing message by his contributions and his message to us," he said.