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MossColumn: Mourning two men who made us better

We take for granted today that the Historic Courthouse is a steadfast presence on Main Street — a majestic reminder of our past and a functional servant to our present as the seat of county government.

The county administration is bivouacked on the first floor while the county clerk labors in the basement beside the old jail. Upstairs, the people gather in the old courtroom to watch meetings of the Board of Commissioners while staffers sit in the old jury boxes on either side.
We were reminded of the successful renovation of the Historic Courthouse with the passing on June 22 of Bill Moyer, who as chair of the Board of Commissioners pushed the renovation through amid a fair amount of grumbling. At that time the so-called Grumpy Old Men wing of the Republican Party was ascendant, having brandished its power with a campaign to defeat a school bond issue in 1997.
Local county debt was verboten until Moyer faced down the grumps and pushed through a big borrowing plan. Big borrowing has become commonplace since then but in the years leading up to the Great Recession it was Moyer who explained that the confluence of low interest rates and hungry contractors is a good time to borrow.
Support for the courthouse renovation was far from universal. People seriously proposed bulldozing the 1905 building. They would pave a faded paradise to put up a parking lot. (We can salvage the dome as a centerpiece, a proponent of this idea used to tell me in the church aisle.)
Because Moyer, George A. Jones, Jeff Miller, Tom Orr, Spence Campbell, Judy Abrell, Theron Maybin, Virginia Gambill and Stuart Stepp persisted, we have the Historic Courthouse. Because Moyer did the bond financing math, counted his votes and pushed forward, we have the Human Services building, sheriff’s office, Tuxedo Community Park and more. Under Moyer’s leadership, we replaced 1950s era elementary schools, renovated Hendersonville Middle School and completed many other capital projects.
In comments at the tail of the Lightning’s news obit, Eva Ritchey, a persistent gadfly back in the day, praised Moyer’s “common sense approach to governing,” his openness to opposing views and his ability to find common ground
“As a result, schools were built, schools were repaired, the Courthouse was repaired and restored, environmental projects moved forward and an endless list of accomplishments” were achieved, Eva said. “He might not have been a native but he was certainly a native’s friend. All our children are better off because he was here.”
That’s a worthy and well-deserved benediction.

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Oh, when the drums begin to bang

Oh, when the drums begin to bang

Oh Lord I want to be in that number

When the saints go marching in


Only few hours before Bill Moyer passed away, I received the stunning news of the death of Rob Tolleson, a jazz, rock, reggae and fusion drummer, band leader, mentor to young musicians, evangelist for peace. Robin James Tolleson left us way too soon, at the age of 62. Elizabeth and I knew Rob and Jocelyn from church, as HHS band parents, as friends. Rob died doing what he loved, playing the drum set on stage during an outdoor concert in Asheville, with one of the many bands he formed and led, the Secret B-Sides.
A journalist by day, Rob was a regular contributor to Modern Drummer, Bass Player, Guitar Player, Downbeat and many more publications covering the music industry. He invented an audio Q&A feature, called Spin-terviews, that combined song excerpts with some of the jazz and rock’n’roll greats that he knew.
Every year around this time Rob called me and sent writeups to promote the annual Hunger Walk and every year around Christmas, he organized a Concert for Peace at Trinity.
For the past three years, Rob led the Hendersonville Community Music Center. Active in the music ministry of his church, Trinity Presbyterian, he also started a music program at the Boys & Girls Club.
So, too, our children are better off because Rob was here.
Although Rob no longer bangs a bongo, rolls a snare or crashes a cymbal beneath the earthly firmament, his gift to all lives on — in the young people he inspired, the music he made, the profiles he wrote, the humility, gentleness and kindness that he gave off. Oh, when the drums begin to bang/Oh, when the saints go marching in …look who it is, banging the drum.

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Contact Hendersonville Lightning editor Bill Moss at