Friends recall Steve Moody as former loner who gave his all to others

Steve Moody was a man who had nothing and gave everything.

He was, friends say, an empty man who started giving everything, a recluse who was changed by a fence, who turned his life around before his death this past summer.

It was a Saturday in August and Moody had just spent the afternoon surrounded by friends from the Lebanon Soup Kitchen. He had been diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer two days before, but this was the first time he didn’t feel well.

As a board member of the soup kitchen, Moody wanted to participate in the special luncheon that was put on by the board for those who volunteer there, but everyone noted he looked “gravely ill” that day.

Later that evening, Moody had a major heart attack and crashed his car into a neighbor’s home. He died the following morning, Aug. 27. He was 60.

Once a solitary man, Moody left behind a community that he loved and served during the last 10 years of his life.

“He was like this pillar that held everything together around him, and so now that’s missing, so we’re all trying to find our places again,” said Nicole Smothers, a volunteer at the soup kitchen.

Every time they were ready to serve food, Moody would first gather them together, added Heather Wright, volunteer.

“He could corral everyone around, and you just felt welcomed and loved,” Wright said.

She remembers he would always give a speech about how they were there to serve other people, that it wasn’t about themselves, but rather about the people they were serving. He told them they were doing God’s work.

“He gave to his community to help it be a better place,” said Mickey Yordy, one of Moody’s closest friends.

Yordy first met Moody when she moved into a small home on Berry Street with her son in 2003. A low chain link fence separated his backyard from hers, and any time Yordy or her son went out back, they were sure to find Moody perched at the fence smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.

“At that time, Steve was a drunk and recluse that left his house at 8:05 every morning to walk his dog,” Yordy said. “Our relationship was a fence relationship. That’s where we hung out and talked.”

Realizing Moody loved to read, and believing he needed to be less of a recluse, Yordy gave him a volunteer sign-up sheet for the SMART reading program at one of the schools.

“You need to fill this out,” she told him. “You need to get off your butt and start giving back to your community and get a life.”

Moody reluctantly joined, and by the following year he was eager to do it again, she said. He ended up reading to kids at several schools two days a week, and Yordy noticed his drinking decreased until it completely ended around 2008.

About five years after Yordy met Moody, she gave him a Bible and invited him to church on Easter.

After that, Moody decided he wanted to find a church of his own choosing, but the two would sometimes spend hours discussing the sermons he’d just listened to. Yordy said she enjoyed hearing the growth in his voice week after week.

“Recluses stick with their own little path and they don’t really venture out, and for him to go visit a church and interact with whoever might be at the door to greet him is a huge thing,” she said.

In 2009, Moody started volunteering at the Lebanon Soup Kitchen.

When Sean Casey, kitchen manager, came on board, he found Moody resistant to change but supportive of anything that would bring value to the work or to the people.

“He was really set in his ways, but he always did everything out of love,” Casey said.

One of the soup kitchen’s regular attendees, Teresa Pearson, had known Moody for several years. He worked with her and encouraged her over the years, and Casey noticed a change in her behavior because of Moody.

“Over the years she was getting more vocal and more trusting, and I know that had to do with Steve being really patient, and loving her,” Casey said.

Pearson said Moody gave her rides, fixed things for her, carried her food tray when needed, and checked on her regularly.

“He got to know me and understand me,” she said. “He stood by me because he was always asking me ‘how are you doing.’ He would help me out when I was having an anxiety attack.”

Roy Bendshadler and Beth Dunn, a couple who also knew Moody from the soup kitchen, said he was always in tune with what the people needed.

“Steve was the people person,” Bendshadler said. “Steve was the one who really took the time to listen to people.”

Dunn said Moody was a “wonderful man” who could always make her feel better.

“Steve could tell when people were upset, and wasn’t afraid to give them a hug,” she said.

Moody regularly helped collect socks, gloves, jackets, blankets, pet food, toiletries, and used sleeping bags to give to those who needed them. He paid vet bills for those who needed help, and purchased shower vouchers for the homeless.

He volunteered at the warming shelter and laundered the soup kitchen loads when needed. He mowed lawns for people, regularly gave rides, and helped pay bills for those who didn’t have enough funds. Moody financially contributed to the soup kitchen, including its first Kids Cooking Camp, and supported nonprofits for veterans, animals and Christian work.

He is remembered for always saying “Praise be” and “There ya go!”

While some workers at the soup kitchen agreed Moody could sometimes have a gruff exterior, it never got in the way of his generosity.

“He could be a little (brusque)sometimes, and then the most generous heart you could find,” said Amy Prisco, volunteer. “His eyes were kind. The exterior might be a little crusty, but his eyes told me he was okay.”

When Yordy told grocery clerks that Moody had passed away, they would cry, she said.

“Checker after checker that I had run into that week, the response was the same,” Yordy said. “He touched their lives by being himself.”

Moody was a humble and sensitive man who was “full-in” when he committed to something, she said. He had been self-centered for a long time, a man who thought only for his dog and cat, but Yordy is amazed that he became a man who gave so much to his community at the end of his life.

“It’s such an honor to have known that drunk, that recluse at the fence, and see the amazing man of God that he was transformed into,” Yordy said.

“He wasn’t anything special, but he was really special.”


Steve Moody