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Harris Blackwood: Residents with unrecognized virtues
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There are people who make contributions to the good of the community without seeking recognition or fanfare.

We lost several of them in the past few weeks, and I could not let this column go by without saying a word or two about them.

At one time homelessness was an “out of sight, out of mind” thing. Two men understood the problem and made great strides to improve the situation. Joe Merck and Gene Beckstein had a passion for serving people in need of a place to sleep and eat a warm meal.

I can remember seeing Joe Merck at night going to the back door of restaurants. He picked up good food that would have otherwise gone in the trash and served it to the residents at his shelter in Gillsville. Merck sometimes got in trouble for the number of people or the conditions of his place, but no one could fault him for his efforts. He was always on duty for the plight of the homeless.

Gene Beckstein came from a hardscrabble upbringing in New York to become a teacher. In his retirement, he created Good News at Noon.

The program gave birth to the Good News Clinic, which eventually became a separate entity and is one of the largest free clinics in Georgia.

At times, Beckstein was overwhelmed with needs and volunteers, but managed to find a place for both.

Bill Edmonds was the longtime registrar at what was then known as Gainesville Junior College. I’m sure some college students made in into college because of Bill Edmonds.

I first met Edmonds in 1990, when Hall County was trying to make certain every person was counted in the census. If we went over 100,000 people, it would have numerous benefits.

Edmonds, who was fluent in French and Spanish, came and helped host a program on WBCX, the Brenau radio station, to encourage Spanish-speaking people to fill out their census forms.

The bottom line is we reached the 100,000 mark.

In his retirement, Edmonds worked in the after-school program at Gainesville First United Methodist Church. He help Hispanic children learn their school work and new language.

In so many schools, a school secretary essentially runs the place. Martha Godfrey Moore was one of those people.

Curtis Segars was her boss and they were the perfect team at a time when Gainesville was going through major transitions, including the desegregation of schools. She later served as secretary to Superintendent Alan Zubay.

Segars and Moore were beloved people who are still admired by students of their day.

My friend and pastor, Bill Coates, spoke last Sunday about “resume virtues” versus “eulogy virtues.” The concept is featured in a book by syndicated columnist David Brooks.

We do some things because they will look good on a resume. Other things are the kind of meaningful tasks people will talk about when you’re gone.

Merck, Beckstein, Edmonds and Moore had a long list of eulogy virtues that have been recalled by those they helped and influenced during their lifetimes.

We are better people because they used those virtues to make our community a better place.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on