KINGSPORT — The region has lost one of its best-known community volunteers.
Ed Moore was found dead in his home Thursday, Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said.
“Ed’s passing is a huge, huge loss for Kingsport,” said Phillips, who has known Moore for more than 20 years. “He was someone looked up to by every person who knew him and he’s one of the few people would never say anything negative about.”
Moore, a longtime employee of Food City, was a tireless volunteer in many community organizations — but was perhaps most known for 20 years of leading the charge to collect donations for and promote the Santa Train.
“He was one of a kind,” said Steve Smith, president and CEO of K-VA-T Food Stores. “We’re all better people for knowing Ed Moore. We are all lucky and blessed that we had Ed in our lives. Ed is one of those people that if you’re really lucky, they come along once or maybe twice.
“We are blessed to have had Ed in our company for 50-plus years. I never met anybody that didn’t like Ed Moore. He was just a special person, what he gave and what he meant to Kingsport. Whether it was the Santa Train or other events.”
“Ed cannot be replaced, but examples of his acts of random kindness for which he is so widely known will continue in his honor forever,” said Miles Burdine, president and CEO of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. “Ed Moore’s smile, caring heart and love for people will be missed but never forgotten. I recently read a book titled ‘The Richest Man in Town.’ It’s about a man who cared deeply for everyone he met, a man who sincerely wished and worked for the happiness of everyone he could touch, a man who knew no strangers — only friends he had yet to meet. If the author of the book had known Ed Moore, Ed’s picture would be on the cover. Our community is fortunate to have known, to have enjoyed and to have loved Ed Moore.”
Smith said in recent years, Moore — known to local shoppers for years as first the manager of Food City on Eastman Road and later as manager of the new downtown Kingsport Food City — had been working in training for the grocery store.
“Ed’s complete focus the last few years was taking young people in our company and imparting his knowledge and wisdom onto them that he had gained over the years,” Smith said. “And he really loved that. He loved people, but he particularly loved young people. And he loved teaching and leading those people, and teaching them how to be great leaders — in our company, but also great community servants. He spent a lot of time taking young people and showing them it’s just as important to go out in the community and do public service as it is to run a good store. He showed them how to get to know their people, how to be in touch with their people.”
That commitment to his employees and to young people in particular showed through a few years ago, Smith said, when Smith invited Moore to attend a banquet honoring Smith’s father — and Moore said he had to decline.
“He said ‘Steve, I’ve already got a commitment. You see, it’s graduation at Dobyns-Bennett High School. And I’ve got 10 kids graduating,’” Smith said. “He had his priorities in the right place.”
Just last year, Moore became the first recipient of the Santa Train Service Award. The award was designed to recognize that it takes a year-round effort by countless volunteers to make the Santa Train happen.
“All of us at CSX who knew Ed are deeply saddened by his passing,” said Tori Kaplan, assistant vice president of corporate social responsibility for CSX. “He was a great partner on the Santa Train, but he was also a dear friend. We will miss him very much, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Upon the surprise presentation of the award during an event the night before Santa Train in 2012, Moore said his commitment to the train was driven by a desire to give back to the communities along the train’s 110-mile route.
Choking up a bit, Moore said he was deeply honored and never imagined being given such an award — and was pretty much left speechless.
Those in the room gave Moore a long standing ovation.
Jamie Horton, Santa’s right hand throughout the day and Moore’s chief point person on tracking donations to the train throughout the year, said she couldn’t imagine a better recipient of the award in its first year.
“Everything I know about the Santa Train, I learned from him,” Horton said.
Moore was involved with the Santa Train for 20 years.
According to a profile published several years ago as part of a Times-News series on community volunteers, Moore grew up in White Pine, Tenn., and was taught early on to help his neighbors and his community. He cleaned up graveyards, chopped wood for people, mowed yards for free, and did whatever his parents told him to do.
“Daddy loaned us out to everybody in the community,” Moore said. “You helped your neighbors back then. It was a way of life.”
Moore said his work with the Santa Train was among his favorite things. Each year, he collected and organized 15 tons of donated candy, food and gifts for distribution from the train along a 110-mile trek from Kentucky through Virginia to Tennessee.
The Santa Train is co-sponsored by the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, CSX Transportation Inc. and Food City.
“Ed’s passion with the Santa Train truly touches the lives of thousands of children,” Chamber CFO Elaine Bodenweiser said. “He embodies the true meaning of giving and volunteerism, and he is one of Kingsport’s shining jewels.”
The Santa Train was just one of Moore’s volunteer efforts. He served for years on the board of directors of the local American Red Cross chapter and participated in disaster relief work with the Red Cross. He also has served as chairman of the Red Cross Armed Forces committee, providing help to local military personnel and their families.
Moore was a member and past president of the Downtown Kingsport Optimist Club and served on the Eastman Community Advisory Board and the Indian Path Medical Center Community Advisory Board. He volunteered his time to help with Fun Fest, the Kingsport Community Christmas Parade, Wellmont Hospice House, and the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau. He coached high school basketball for Appalachian Christian School and volunteered in city and county schools. And he helped with Food City Family Race Night, a burgeoning event that allows race fans to meet their favorite drivers.
Moore also was involved with the ETSU Pride Week Committee, American Cancer Society, First Presbyterian Church Shepherd Center, Fourth of July Parade, Goodwill Industries, Children’s Miracle Network and the Aim Scholars program.
Moore credited his employer, Food City, and its parent, K-VA-T Food Stores, for allowing him to volunteer for so many causes.
Moore said he had a partner in serving the community: his wife, Eva, who died of cancer in 2000. He said she volunteered for various causes, too.
“And if I needed help, she was always there,” Moore said.
Moore was recognized nationally for his volunteer efforts. In 2003, he was named one of four winners in the Store Manager Superior Service Awards competition by the Food Marketing Institute in Chicago. He was one of two winners from across the United States.
He also was honored in Food City’s annual Claude P. Varney Volunteer Recognition Program for outstanding volunteerism among company associates.
In an interview with the Times-News for that profile years ago, Moore said he couldn’t imagine not volunteering for his community.
“It’s all about the children and giving back to the community. I’ll probably volunteer for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’d advise everybody — volunteer in the community they live in. It’s worthwhile, and it’s a way of life.”
Staff writer Matthew Lane contributed to this report.