Tuesday night was Ward 4 Councilor's Joe Hayes' last City Council meeting after 23 years of service to his beloved city.
Former Mayor Bobby Jewell was there to wish his old friend good luck in the future.
Jewell was in office when Hayes first came onto the City Council in 1991.
"When he found out we were honoring Joe tonight, he decided he was coming," said Jewell's son and Ward 1 Councilor Lanny Jewell. "He's been sitting on the edge of his chair for three or four hours."
Mayor Philip Craighead signed a proclamation listing many of the important things Hayes has done for the city in his years on the council and declared Dec. 2 "Joe Hayes Day" in Lebanon. Then he handed it to him, saying, "He's just the man we all call Joe."
Craighead also asked Hayes to stay on the Airport Board.
'Thanks for letting me serve'
Then it was Hayes' turn to speak. First he thanked all the city employees for their hard work, going out to do their jobs regardless of the weather. "Although we did give them one day off last winter," he said with a smile. "Couldn't have them out there slipping into each other on the ice."
Then with his head tucked down, Hayes thanked Lebanon for letting him serve. "I just want to thank this city for what it means to me," he said.
Hayes described first coming to serve on the council back when Bobby Jewell was the mayor.
"I was just a little old country boy from Statesville, then," he recalled. "All the council members I've known, I couldn't say how many, they were all good people. Now my term is up. This is my last night."
He has attended 600 council meetings, Hayes said. "We counted it up the other night," he said. "And that's not counting all the other meetings."
He also spoke of his thanks to his wife of 47 years and his family for supporting him all these years, noting, "Those meetings made me miss a lot of good family time."
'Statesville farm boy'
And he talked about growing up in Statesville, son of a hard-working farmer. "I know what it is to be poor," he said. "My daddy worked daylight 'til dark on the farm, cleaning out fence rows for a dollar a day, to feed his family."
Hayes added, "I've got friends that are rich and friends that are poor, friends that are black and friends that are white, friends that are young and friends that are old. It don't make a difference, they're my friends."
He also talked about why he chose to be a softball coach for the girls' league. "When you get to know those kids, you find out some of them don't have a father, some of them don't have a mother," he said. "We need to be a father or a mother to the kids who don't have one or the other."
Finally, he said he intends to keep on living in Ward 4 the rest of his life and he hopes it will be a long time. "I may be leaving the council, but my phone number hasn't changed," he noted. "If you need me just call 444-4600."
A story about 'the coach'
Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath had a story to add about "the coach." She recalled how it was when she and Joe were coaching at a tournament.
"Joe's girls were losing," she said, and he went out there on the field and talked bad to the umpires until they kicked him out of the park.
"I thought, 'What is he doing? Those girls need him,'" Warmath said with a chuckle. But then the girls got so mad at the umpire for throwing Joe out that they rallied and won the game.
"Then I thought, 'He knew exactly what he was doing,'" Warmath concluded.
Each of the other councilors thanked Joe for his service - and when the meeting was over, several of the audience members also came up to shake his hand and say, "Good-bye, Joe."
Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.