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Love Notes

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A community's common denominator

Bud Moon was one of our community’s common denominators. At least, that’s what I wrote in a sympathy card to his family after he died last month. I had seen Bud and his wife Susan enjoying lunch at Slate’s Restaurant just days before lung cancer took him.

During our brief conversation, I was struck with how much at peace he seemed to be with the satisfying life he had experienced in his hometown. Bud wore many hats during his lifetime: Sandpoint native son, businessman, war veteran, visionary, boatman, public servant, family man and good friend to all. Each dimension of his life touched other lives in positive ways.

Bud was hardly alone among local citizens in Sandpoint’s history who have served as common denominators during their lives, but his memorial service, set in the grandly restored auditorium at the Sandpoint Events Center formerly known as the Sandpoint High School, where he graduated in 1944, was a bit unique to those accustomed to attending funerals in churches or chapels.

Besides remembering a good man, the large gathering served as a reminder that we all, as we walk this life, unwittingly accrue our own myriad of unifying connections. The many lives touched by Bud’s influence came together and remembered their personal associations with the affable, upbeat man who loved boats, politics, puttering and people.

Lawrence G. "Bud" Moon III also ran the local funeral home many years ago after his father Lawrence G. "Pike" Moon II retired. It was in that capacity that his longtime friend, Rev. Chuck Wigton remembered him in the eulogy. Chuck came to Sandpoint as a young minister back in the late ‘50s, and Bud took him under his wing, always reassuring him that everything would turn out okay.

In his sermon, Chuck cited and appreciated his friend’s constant support, also noting that Bud embodied the spirit he discovered throughout the whole town of Sandpoint way back then. He observed, almost longingly, of moments spent at the old post office (now a title company) or the back room of the funeral home (now a parking lot) where local businessmen gathered, often asking each other, "How are the kids?"

Rev. Wigton also lamented that we’ll probably never see the Sandpoint of those days again. Chuck was right, but, with all due respect, I believe he was also wrong to a certain degree. As long as the humans or places or events which create common bonds among people continue to exist, we can continue to reclaim the essence of Chuck’s message in his words about Bud.

The funeral served as living proof, not only because of Bud but also because of the setting where hundreds of people felt like they had "come home" when they entered that beautifully restored auditorium. Some graduated from high school there; others remembered it as their junior high; to some it was the "Ninth Grade Center"; still, others attended sixth grade there. All who came to pay their respects to the family also enjoyed a smorgasbord of old-time Sandpoint as the visiting in the auditorium and along the hallways spanned generations.

Retired businessmen gathered. No doubt, some conversations still dealt with how the kids (now old enough to be grandparents) were doing. Some attendees delighted in playing, "Guess who I am," to others who hadn’t laid eyes on their faces in 30 or 40 years. Janet Snedden Kee, for example, hinted to me that her sister Lynn was sitting behind her. Suddenly, I remembered the tall, vivacious redhead who often wore a ponytail back in the early ‘70s. She’s looking pretty good in her 50s.

My most startling recognition involved a man with a crewcut and glasses, whom I saw at times talking to several Moon family members. Later, I learned from his younger brother, Dave Darling, that Larry WAS INDEED a Moon family member. I hadn’t seen Larry Darling since the late ‘60s. As I approached to say hello, he and Cory Moon Cookman were reminiscing about the one and only time they ever saw fear in Bud’s eyes while piloting a boat one day during a nasty storm on Lake Pend Oreille.

Many longtime locals got their first look at the exquisite care and love that owner Brad Scott and his wife Lynda are putting forth as they meticulously build upon the past while preparing the old school to embrace the future.

Elbert Gunter of Sagle told me he graduated in 1939 and figured he may have entered the building once or twice since leaving high school, but this was his first visit since the restoration process began. Later, on one of my trips to the ladies’ restroom, Elbert’s son Wayne, SHS Class of 1967 and local library director, appropriately noted to me that I was entering the old junior high library where Esther Weaver had ruled when Wayne and I had attended the school there in the early ‘60s. Maybe the Scotts should pile a few books by the commodes.

Wayne graduated the same year as Bud’s oldest daughter Chris. At the reception after the service, the Class of ’67 held a hallway mini-reunion. Among those were Dr. John Snedden, Dr. Christine Moon Hengstler and Dr. Bruce Johnson, all playmates from the good ol’ days when the families hung out together at Rocky Point near Dover. Later, Bruce Johnson shared some of their commonalities with me.

As "the kids" of the era noted by Chuck Wigton, they knew Dub and avoided being picked up by Dub, proprietor of his so-named restaurant and local city cop. They knew of 25 cent-per-gallon gas, which they couldn’t afford. While they were growing up as Bud Moon’s, Angus Snedden’s and Herb Johnson’s kids, "Oly Jennestad and Lloyd Larson set the style trends while Charlie Stidwell, Dick Sodorff and George Elliot taught us how to behave in those clothes." They also knew Sandpoint when the Cedar Street Bridge was an actual bridge, and "cold water creek" was any stream in the winter."

Meanwhile, another graduate, Elaine Ballou Clark, quickly corrected me when I guessed that she had graduated in 1941.

"No, it was ‘42," she said, anxious to tell me about the graduation ceremony when her class sat up on the stage and some boys in the back had a "bottle" hidden behind the curtain. I told Elaine I was shocked: I thought kids didn’t do those naughty things until the ‘60s. She assured me they did.

I saw Toby Carlson and his brother Tom, both 1970s-era grads, standing by the window, surveying the crowd prior to the service. I told the Carlson brothers my story of removing the nuts and bolts from the former auditorium seats back in 1959 and how I’d gotten caught by my choir teacher Dona Meehan because of giggling too loud in mid-crime.

Then, I wondered out loud if Charlie’s ghost might be there, Charlie Stidwell, that is. Toby countered with a cautionary suggestion that Dona Meehan’s ghost was surely there. Shortly after I told him Dona doesn’t have a ghost because she still lives out at Hope. Dona walked through the door. I left Toby and greeted my former choir teacher not far from the spot where she’d nabbed me almost 40 years ago.

While strolling from group to group during the reception, I heard stories of wintertime woes, of people in failing health, of people regaining their health, of plans for retirement, and of kids and what they’re doing with their lives. Speaking of kids, I had a brief talk with one of Bud’s grandkids, Josh Moon. Josh was one of my publications students from the early 1990s.

Seems he’s bought the rights to BatWaves, a snowboarding-mitt logo, created by some other Sandpoint boys, the Sanborns, back in the 1980s and ‘90s. I’m anxious to talk with Josh more about this venture because of forking over five bucks to him several months ago when he first told me about his new enterprise.

"Let me be an investor," I told him that day at the Chevron station, so, of course, I’ve got a stake in seeing him do well.

Like any smorgasbord, you always want to fill your plate with a sample of everything, but like every smorgasbord with more than ample offerings, Bud’s good-bye gathering made it impossible to see and talk to everyone.

I’m sure, though, that Bud, the common denominator of this magnificent memorial service where the tapestry of that old Sandpoint flourished for a couple of hours, was pretty pleased with all those folks who benefitted from knowing him and from getting to know each other because of his influence. Not a bad legacy, if you ask me.

Thanks, Bud.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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