News Column

Late Threshers CEO memorialized

August 30, 2014

By William Smith, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

Aug. 30--MOUNT PLEASANT -- The late Lennis Moore was more than the CEO of Midwest Old Threshers.

He was Old Threshers.

Moore died nearly three months ago at the age of 64, leaving a sizable hole in the hearts of the hundreds of volunteers who bring the festival together every year.

About 50 Threshers board members and volunteers gathered inside the Richard E. Oetken Heritage Museum Friday morning to dedicate the inside of the building to Moore. He guided Old Threshers for 36 years, until his death.

"When Lennis came here, this building was filled with rows and rows of stuff," said Terry McWilliams, interim CEO of Old Threshers. "He built all these exhibits. He raised the money, found the artifacts, designed it, built it, painted it. You name it, he did it. So it's very appropriate we did this today."

The inside of the building will now be known as the Lennis Moore Exhibit Hall, which will be expanded with another display next year. Williams also revealed a number of plaques hanging around the inside of the museum, each one paying tribute to Moore.

"Back in February, Lennis designed the last display he drew up," McWilliams said. "We will be building that display in the next year. It will deal with antique cars and trucks at a service station, trucking over the road and rural fire departments. We took our fire station down at the north village, and we're going to encompass all of that into this exhibit."

That's in addition to displays inside the museum that re-create traction steam engines, a family farm house from 1915, American farm implements, the Printer's Hall and the Marvin Mill. Moore had a hand in creating all of them and usually did the designs himself.

"It's a tough year with Dad being gone," said Moore's son, Luke Moore of Iowa City. "I just feel his presence out on the grounds."

The retired gunslingers of the North Village will pay tribute to Moore with a simulated jail break at 10 a.m. and a train robbery at 11 a.m. today. Though the current crop of cowboys will continue with their regular shows after that, the shoot-outs this morning are entirely in Moore's memory.

"It wasn't too hard to get the guys interested. Everyone jumped at the opportunity," said retired gunslinger Glen Hamm of Fairfield.

Hamm is one of the original nine gunslingers of the North Village and has seen crowds of 2,000 people gather to watch the Wild West shows. Hamm came up with the idea of the shoot-outs 34 years ago, and Moore became his eager collaborator.

"I walked through the North Village in 1980 and saw the saloon, and the town didn't have anything going on," Hamm said. "I talked with Lennis, and he brought my idea to the board of directors."

By 1981, the simulated town was teeming with life. Saloon girls perform bawdy songs every hour, and blacksmiths dressed in 1890s garb spend day and night working the forge.

"Lennis was also a buckskinner and liked the Old West, and he would stop by periodically," Hamm said. "He never took the limelight. He was not a glory hound. He was kind of the subtle guy behind the scenes."

Steve O'Grady of Bloomfield and Keith Sommer of Pandora, Ohio, both work as blacksmiths at the North Village, and they made sure they were in the museum to see the dedication Friday morning.

"He was a true artist, from what you can see in this building. I never heard anybody say a bad word about Lennis," Sommer said.

O'Grady said it feels strange not to have him at this year's festival. Both men knew Moore for more than 20 years.

"Lennis was very visible. Very visible," O'Grady said.

Threshers board member and steam engine operator Bob Gilchrist knew Lennis even longer, and was proud to call him a close friend. He thought the dedication to be quite fitting and said any part of Old Threshers would be an appropriate memorial.

"We're moving on, and that's what he would want us to do. But we all miss him," Gilchrist said. "He told us more than once that the organization will keep going. And we are."

Midwest Old Threshers will continue today through Monday.


(c)2014 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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Source: Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA)

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