When asked by Clint to pay tribute to Merle, I told him it would be an honor. My
remarks will not be from the perspective of a genealogist, because I’m not a
genealogist. I resisted Merle’s efforts to move me in that direction, however I
want to give a glimpse from my perspective of his life and what it means to us.
Planning ahead like I always do, I called Priscilla yesterday to see if she had
any rooms available. “We’re full here” she said, “but we’re only expecting about
20 people tomorrow night and normally we have 60 + people.” This reminded me of
a story of a hunter over in Africa. He was going through the jungle, came to a
clearing, and in the clearing was a little pygmy standing beside a giant
elephant. “Did you kill this elephant?”, asked the hunter. “Yes”, replied the
little Pigmy. “How did you kill such a giant beast?” “ I used my club,” he
answered. “Well”, asked the hunter, “just how big is this club?” “There are
about 20 of us,” replied the pigmy.
There are a couple points here: No.1. Merle saw the need for the Association or
the need for a club, and No. 2. Twenty people can accomplish a giant task.
Perhaps the greatest tribute we can pay to him is to be here today as we are,
and to continue meeting on a regular basis as we have over the past several
years. He greatly appreciated that, appreciated Clint, Louise, Priscilla and all
those who have been so active in keeping the Association going. He mentioned
that a lot. It meant so much to him.
When I first met Merle it was at the gathering to clean the Dickson Cemetery in
the spring of 1992. He reminded me of my dad. He said, “I’m Elmer, you are a
Moore, what is your name and where are you from?” I told him, we chatted a few
minutes and then he said, “Here are some tools, a hoe, an ax, and a machete,
pick one and lets go to work.” I apparently did a good job that day for I earned
one of his famous and always appreciated nicknames.
At that gathering there were Merle and Gracie, Beverly Delaney and her mother,
Bill and Sue Woodard, Mary and George Hughes, and several local people who came
and helped clean the cemetery. We hadn’t been there long when he started with
the nicknames. In one of our conversations that day, he said “I met your red
headed sister a few weeks ago up in West Virginia.” Now, I do not have a red
headed sister. He was talking about my sister, Bonnie Gainer, who is as brown
eyed and brunette as you can get, so I began to wonder about him. As we
continued working the nicknames started coming out. Mine, apparently due to my
great proficiency with the machete, became “Whacker”, Bill Woodard became “Burly
Bill,” since he was big and had a beard. Beverly Delaney was “Bubbles” for her
bubbly personality, and Mary Hughes was “Bell”, as in “Southern Bell”.
Mary and I established a good rapport that day and we decided to have a little
fun with Merle. At dinner that evening, although I already knew the why of the
names, I recapped my understanding of them to Merle in front of all the others.
“Bubbles” fits Beverly with her bubbly personality, “Burly Bill” fits Bill with
his size and beard, and “Whacker” fits me for my use of the machete. But, Merle,
“Bell” as in ding-a-ling, just doesn’t seem to fit Mary Hughes. “No!” he
exclaimed. It’s “Belle” as in Southern Belle. He spoke often of Mary Hughes. He
saw her as we all do, as a beautiful, dignified, and sophisticated lady. He had
great respect for her and appreciation of her work and contribution to our
family. We had a lot of fun those few days. We got to know each other, and none
of us who were there will ever forget it. Thank you Merle and Gracie.
In addition to the amazing imagination required to tag us with his always
appropriate nicknames, those who were fortunate to get to know this special
person became aware of his many other talents and abilities. The fortunate thing
for us was that he chose to use those talents and abilities in service to our
family. The result of that choice was that he seemed to have absorbed,
assimilated and reflected through his work, and the way he lived, the cumulative
essence and culture of our family.
He never ceased to amaze us with his unique one liners and stories that in
essence reflect who we are. His story from Rhody I of the “post hole seed
salesman” is an example that comes to mind. “…Between the socks this morning”
was another line he used that would turn your head if you hadn’t heard him use
The first time we heard that one was at the restaurant for breakfast in the
spring of “92.
“Well, between the socks this morning I had this great idea” he began, as soon
as we were seated. Beverly, Bill and I quizzically looked at each other
conjuring up an image of Merle at a special spot between some socks on the floor
where great ideas just came to him. Then he explained that while bent over
putting on his socks first thing in the morning he would often have these
That particular morning he started talking about organizing, and the need to get
together on a regular basis in order to continue to identify the people, places
and things that reflect and make up our family history and identity. When he got
through speaking we were enthused. We were already on such a high from the few
days we had spent together. Merle’s sales pitch and his timing couldn’t have
been better or more effective. He never referred to himself as a salesman, but
the “post hold seed salesman” would have bought his line that morning.
Bill Woodard, and Beverly Delaney together with Mary Hughes, Merle, and others
then proceeded to lay the foundation over the next several years for what is now
our National Association. From them came our first newsletters, our first dues
collections from family members, and they even organized a well-attended
gathering at the elementary school in Mooresburg. Somewhere along the line we
need to recognize Bill and Beverly for their work in keeping an organization
going until we were able to organize as we are today. Merle would want and
So beyond that I want to go into the news of his passing. I came home from work,
and checked my e-mail as I do frequently and regularly every week or two, saw
the email of his passing, and was totally shocked. Why didn’t they tell us
something when he died so we could attend his funeral? I went out to my gazebo
and spent sometime alone. I now realized that this person had passed, and in my
life there would never be a father figure like that to me again. It was hard to
deal with. That weekend, my wife and I had plans to go to Crystal River with
some friends. These friends’ father was a very wealthy man. He grew up in the
food business with George Jenkins at Publix. He had a small Island at the mouth
of Crystal River that he had put his heart into over the years. My friend had
inherited the place and we went there for the weekend.
During the course of the weekend, I noticed etched in a concrete slab the
initials “B. S. 1976”. It was the initials of the man who had created this
estate. He had left his family wealthy. It struck me then just what a great
legacy Merle has left us. The concrete with the initials in it and all the money
involved will fade away over time. Two hundred years from now or longer, Rodey 1
and Rodey 2 will still be out there. We will know who we are as a family in
large part because of Merle Moore and the great and unfailing support over so
many years of his wonderful wife, Grace and all of his immediate family.
In closing, Grace and April came to my immediate family’s reunion this past
summer up in West Virginia. Grace explained to me that the reason Merle didn’t
want people to know about his illness and death was that he did not want anyone
to think that what he was doing in anyway shape or form was for his own
glorification. The most important thing to him was this Association and to have
people become active in it. Yes, they could have put out the word and people
would have come from across the country but that wasn’t what he wanted. What he
wanted was for us to do what we are doing here tonight – gather for the purpose
of keeping the Association going as the focal point of our family. He knew that
the purpose of family is a noble purpose and that his work was in harmony with
that purpose. That purpose transcended any desire on his part for personal
credit and glorification.
Merle was one of the richest men I have ever known. It was Socrates that said
“wealth is not measured by what one has, but by what one can, with dignity, do
without. Merle could have had anything he wanted in life, but “Birdsong” was the
only mansion he wanted or needed. He could’ve traveled the country in the
biggest SUV that is made, but he chose to drive around the country in an old
Scout 2 that must have had 300,000 miles on it. To him the measure of a man
wasn’t what he had or what position he held, but his integrity and character. We
are all honored to have had him as part of our family.
Comments: Bill’s presentation was from the heart and heartfelt to many of us who
listened to it as we all share that same deep felt belief and core understanding
of what he was all about.
Marian Moore added that he had nicknames for everybody in the family. We would
get e-mails from him about different people in the family saying they did this
and this and I would ask John who is that and he didn’t know. One sister-in-law
was Birdie whose real name was Louise. Everybody, children, grandchildren had
nicknames and most we did not have a clue as to who they were.