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Two “Gentle” Men


By: Michael Aun


Over the years, I have written about the many heroes of mine that have shaped and molded my life. Two such men were William Moses and Joseph Bedenbaugh, a pair of educators back in my home town of Lexington, SC.

Mr. Bedenbaugh recently passed away at the age of 95, wringing every last bit of love out of life. He was my high school Principal and I think I knew him longer than almost any man in my life.

One might think that to be Principal of a school should have been adequate enough public service to one’s community. If you thought that about Joe Bedenbaugh, you would have been mistaken.

His community service record read like a “Who’s Who?” in the town of Lexington, SC. The American Legion Post 7 and the Lexington Lions Club were but two that touched my life.

As a teenager, I played in the American Legion Baseball league as well as playing for the Lexington Lions in little league. “Mr. Bedenbaugh” was a fixture at not only these games but at every football, baseball, basketball and track event I ever attended. He would often ride with us to away games on the school bus, which I drove as a junior and senior.

I would see him with his bride, Mrs. Edna, every week at my Uncle’s grocery store, Mack’s Cash and Carry on Main Street in Lexington.

His wide-ranging public service earned him membership into a number of prestigious Hall of Fame honors including the Melvin Jones Award for Community Service, the South Carolina Lions Club Hall of Fame and the Odelle Harman Award for Service.

I had the privilege of co-founding the Lexington High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He was selected to that honor as well, winning over 90% of his games as the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Lexington in the late forties and early fifties.

For me he was something else. He was the provider of my Christmas present I gave my mom for many of my years as a child. Mama Alice was a practical woman and the last thing she would want us to do is waste money on an extravagance like perfume or jewelry. No… just give her a new broom, which I would purchase from Mr. Bedenbaugh and his sidekick Satch Shull, another Lexington Principal.  Both were members of the Lexington Lions Club.

Mr. William Moses was another “gentle” man who touched my life. He was my high school Guidance Counselor and a man of enormous patience. I recall visiting him regarding my future and he said some of my testing suggested I would be good as a ballerina. I’m not sure if I candidly answered all the questions.

Mr. Moses had perhaps the single greatest impact on my life, looking back over the past seven decades. Did he teach me? No, he was my counselor. He found talent where none existed and somehow convinced me that I should enter the Oral Interpretations and Declarations Contest. I thought to myself… what harm could it do?

Every afternoon during my free period, I would report to a vacant room right behind “The Wildcat” room at Lexington High School. I was Sport Editor of “The Wildcat,” our school publication so I was in one of those two rooms during any free periods.

For hours on end, Mr. Moses would coach me on how to stand, how to use voice modulation, eye contact and even how to gesture. I had to memorize a speech that featured a quote from the 17th century poet John Doone, who wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” 

It was a powerfully written speech that I commanded to memory. I went on to win the State Oratorical Speech and Declamations Contest.

Unknowing to him, the time this gentle man spent with me laid the foundation to what has become a speaking career that has spanned almost a half century. Fortunately, before he died I had the opportunity to thank him publicly at an awards presentation several years later.

These two “gentle” men managed to become a compass for my life. I will never forget them.

Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® won the World Championship of Public Speaking” for Toastmasters International in 1978 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.