To the editor:

In Memoriam of a Dear Friend, Johnny Moon — an Athenian Icon.

When I first came to Athens from Britain with a strange English accent, people were very friendly. However, the first Athenian to truly befriend me was Johnny Moon, a wonderful friendship that lasted over 30 years until his recent untimely death.

I first met Johnny in the bar of the Stewart House hotel, where he always occupied the most southerly seat and where he held court with his wit and repartee. Everybody knew him. He was an iconic figure who presented his stately persona with expansive military outfits and large US Navy finger rings. He carried this over to his other favorite Athenian haunt, the Athens Stewart’s shop, where he would hang out reading the daily edition of this newspaper whilst concurrently engaging in conversation with all comers, the young, the middle aged and the old.

Johnny was a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, where he served on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, named after the battle of the Coral Sea, which took place in the southwestern Pacific during World War II. The carrier was built during the last two years of that war and subsequently launched in 1947, and in the early 60s commissioned for duty with the Seventh Fleet. Johnny joined the Coral Sea in the early 70s, which at the time was deployed to the west Pacific and Vietnam, where he saw action on many occasions, acting as part of the team on the flight deck that loaded armaments and fuel onto the fighter jets and bombers that served the carrier. Scary work! This experience was remarkably productive and illuminative for Johnny, which not only introduced him to the world but also afforded him the opportunity to make a significant contribution to his country with a high sense of patriotism.

The experience shaped many of his accomplishments and career decisions in his post-Vietnam war life, which involved primarily pursuing a future in military engineering, acting in various critical quality control positions for Northrop Grumman on Long Island, and latterly Dynabil Industries, now Ducommun Aerostructures, in Coxsackie.

Such was his love for Athens, that while working on Long Island he would come home every weekend, so enabling him to assume his position at the Stewart House Hotel’s “southend,” as he and I would call it. Johnny was a musician — a saxophone player. He created a band, the renowned “Johnny Moon and Starz,” which was highly regarded within the community and beyond, and which included a brass section incorporating horn, trombone, trumpet, and of course, saxophone. The band played in all the local bars and music venues, including the Athens Riverfront Park under the aegis of the Athens Performing Arts Corporation, (APAC), of which he was a founding member along with his friend from childhood Rick Surrano.

Johnny asked me to join the APAC Board in 2012, and I had much pleasure working with him and other members of the Board in the attempt to develop and expand the concept. He retired from APAC in 2019 for health reasons, but had his health not been compromised he would never have retired, so much did he believe in the concept of the endeavor and the contribution it made to the village in which he was born, and which he so much loved.

So Johnny, farewell my friend, Godspeed, and may I thank you for the wonderful contribution you made to Athens over many years, and I look forward to meeting you again at the “southend,” in due course.

Robert Smallwood


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