Bill and Tom Go to School

The United States Census of 1930 records that Tom Moody and Bill Kuegel were neighbors living in Magisterial District #5 of Daviess County, Kentucky. That District covered everything south of Panther Creek extending to the county lines of McLean and Ohio counties.

 

Tom was born in 1923 and died in 2013. In between those years, he served in the United States Army Air Force, earned two degrees from the University of Kentucky, and labored 42 years as a minister of the gospel in three churches, in Lexington, Murray, and St. Louis.

 

Bill was born in 1924 and died in 2019. During his life, he served in the United States Marine Corp, attended Georgetown College, and returned home to spend his life as a farmer in Daviess County.

 

Tom was my dad, and I followed him around to all those places and then followed him into gospel work.  He spoke at my ordination in 1977, and I spoke at his ordination in 1978

 

Bill was my friend. Our paths crossed when I moved to Owensboro in 1991 to pastor Third Baptist Church, and later we served together on the Board of Trustees of Georgetown College. That was but one of his many achievements in life, and his family produced a 25-minute film to chronicle all of it. Watch it here.

 

Tom and Bill made good in life, but they started out poor. The parents of both were tenant farmers, struggling to make ends meet working the land that belonged to others. Tom left the farm in 1940 never to return, but Bill came back to the land, buying up farms on his way to becoming one of the most prosperous farmers and successful businessmen in Daviess County.

 

The two boys started out together, in the first primary consolidated school in Daviess County. At one time, the county supported 217 one-room schoolhouses: segregated, of course, with 182 designated for white children. One of these, Pleasant Grove School, has been restored, moved to Panther Creek Park, and refurbished with period pieces. Mostly, though, it is the wasps that now inhabit the building (as I found out recently on a walk through the park).

 

In 1927, six of these schools were merged to form the first of the consolidated primary schools—Snyder Consolidated School. The building stands today, on the east side of Route 81, just south of Mosleyville. After finishing its service as a school, it was transformed into apartments; a new owner is now in the midst of refurbishing it as a family dwelling. I stopped last week and took a picture, imagining those two little boys entering the arched doorway to begin their journey with letters, numbers, and stories.

 

I don’t know about Bill, but Tom did not finish his primary education at Snyder. His family moved often, as was the lot of tenant famers. Tom ended up in Magistrate District #3, which encompassed the far western slice of Daviess County, including Sorgho, Stanley, and Birk City. He attended the then newly consolidated Sorgho School (now replaced by a new facility with the old one serving as educational center of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church).

 

Tom never talked about going to school: not to grade school or high school or even the University of Kentucky. He graduated with a university degree in math and started adult life teaching at Newport High School in northern Kentucky. Later, he completed a master’s degree in religious education from the University; and still later furthered his education at the Baptist seminary in Louisville and traveled with me for a month exploring the Holy Land.

 

He once attended a lecture at Regent’s Park College of Oxford University in England and thereafter was heard to say, “I studied at Oxford.” Dad had a wonderful sense of humor!

 

Tom was the first of his family to attend college and the only one to finish college. But he, his wife Reita, and their four children eventually accumulated no fewer than 11 college, university, and seminary degrees—not bad for a poor country boy who started life at a consolidated school in Daviess County, Kentucky.

 

Not bad, indeed!

 

 

(November 2020)