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Me and “Me”: Remembering Judy Moss, a shining star in Erwin for 97 years

Judy Moss and Mark Stevens at Governor’s Bend at the piano. (Contributed photo)

By Mark A. Stevens

Special to The Erwin Record

“Me.”

That’s how she signed her letters and postcards.

MY CARD.

Those were the only words on the front of her “business card,” and if she scribbled a hand-written message on the card’s back, it never included a signature or a name. Sometimes not even a “Me.”

But there was no mystery. It was Judy Moss, who delighted in being fun, in being funny, in being herself – always.

“I’ve got to be me,” she’d say.

Letters, postcards, and, yes, that card, that seemingly enigmatic card –  I’ve kept them all, tucked away in my desk.

Judy died Jan. 23 at the age of 97. She’d lived a great life, and my life is immeasurably better because of her.

And, judging from the wonderful comments from others, there are many whose lives were made better because Judy lived an uplifting life.

Here are just a few of those comments:

“She was such a joy to be around!”

“She was just one special human being.”

“She will shine among the brightest stars.”

“She was a very special lady.”

“A woman of class.”

“She was such a kind lady.”

“She always lit up a room.”

Those beautiful words and recollections were realized because Judy lived a life of just being herself – or, better put, by being “me.” Because she was kind, thoughtful and upbeat, others were, too. Kindness, Judy understood, is contagious.

I dedicated the second edition of my pictorial history book, “Unicoi County: Then & Now,” to Judy. I wrote, “To Judy Moss, who is my sweet and special friend and whose life never fails to inspire.”

To be honest, I don’t remember when or how Judy and I became friends, but it was probably like that for a lot of people who knew Judy. She was your friend instantly.

I never heard her say a negative word about anyone. “You be you, and I’ll be me,” she’d say. “How can we go wrong?”

She was gracious and spunky, grand and down-to-earth. She had a singular style, always dressed to impress but with a bohemian’s panache. She was equally debonair in a Kentucky Derby hat, a chapeau, a beret or, my favorite, a pink pith helmet.

Thalia Jennings shared this with me: “Judy was a neighbor when I was a child. I always thought she was so pretty and loved going to her house. She was kind of like a movie star to me.”

That was the thing about Judy. She seemed bigger than life, because she was living life to the fullest.

And, yes, for the most part by “being me.” That is, except when “me” gave way to “we.”

Judy was married to Frank “Dick” Moss for 68 years.

Judy was outgoing, Dick was shy. He worked for the railroad, and she operated Moss Flower Shop and made deliveries in a pink van.

She started her nearly 70-year love affair with Dick Moss holding tight – and never letting go – on the back of his motorcycle, racing away to a Florida honeymoon.

“It’s you and me,” Judy said as they sped away.

They were inseparable, devoted to one another. They never had children, but they had each other, which was more than enough. It was a life full of love.

At night alone, Dick played the piano for his sweetheart. When he died, on Sept. 13, 2010, she held his hands, those same hands that played the piano only for her.

Shortly before his death, Judy once told me, she whispered to him, “I love you much.” He replied, “Love much.”

And his last words to Judy: “Kiss me.”

In his final hours, he gave Judy one final acknowledgement of his love.

“He took hold of my hand,” she said, “and he squeezed it hard. And then he let loose.”

It was Dick’s way of saying it was OK, after all those days and years of being “you and me” that it was OK to let go and just go back to “being me.”

“I was always his sweetheart,” Judy told me. “He was always courteous to me. He always put me first.”

The night “Mossy,” as she often called him, died, Judy admitted that she wished she could have just gone with him, but, as stalwart and graceful as ever, she said, “That’s not how life works.”

So for these last few years, Judy went on, as she had always done, bringing joy to anyone who met her. She was the first resident of Governor’s Bend, the first assisted-living facility in Erwin. With Judy as a resident, I was once told by the manager, it was as if the multi-million-dollar facility had been given the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

The cooks were quite good, Judy told me the first time she invited me to lunch there. We were served fried chicken, and the kitchen brought us both a banana split for dessert.

“Well,” Judy said, “that really is the cherry on top!”

On some visits, I’d play the piano, as she sat beside me. And on other visits, we would just chat in her apartment. She’d decorated the walls with her many hats. “Just something,” she said with a grin, “that I thought of off the top of my head.”

When I visited or would call, Judy always asked about my wife, Amy, and about our dogs.

When Amy and I moved for a short time to Lafayette, Louisiana, and later to our current home in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Judy would send cards and letters, all signed “Yours most affectionately, ‘Me.’ ”

I’ll always remember Judy’s smile, her sweet nature and her last words before the end of a phone call or a visit. “I love you, honey,” she’d say. “I love you more than butter!”

I am a better person because Judy Moss was my friend, and I know she would tell me not to be sad. She’d have, I believe, only one request: Remember “Me.”

(Mark A. Stevens served as publisher of The Erwin Record from 1997 until 2011. He and his wife, Amy, live in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. He is the author of several books about Erwin history, including “The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine.”)