Rooted In FamilyCity Councilman Bill Moody opens up about son’s passing, plants tree in his memory
March 2, 2017
By Bill Davis | News Editor
When asked three years ago to talk about his oldest son, Brian, being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, City Councilman Bill Moody said, “Now isn’t the right time.”
When Brian got sicker, Moody held firm. “It’s not time.”
When Brian died early Easter morning last year at 52 years old, Moody said, “It’s still not time.”
Two weeks ago, it was time. It was time for neighbors, family, friends, and members of the community to gather where the West Ashley Greenway intersects with Betsy Road on the way to Moody’s house to plant a tree to honor his son, a former school board chairman and Chamber of Commerce leader. Last year the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce named Brian as the winner of the 2016 Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award, which celebrates a visionary leader who has done extraordinary work to strengthen the community.
The fringe tree, a native species, will flower in the coming years with a showy white flower in the spring, and will grow tall enough to provide a beautiful site, but not tall enough to threaten power lines.
“It’s never time and it’s always time,” said Moody, as he sat on the back porch of his West Ashley creekside home where he has his morning coffee.
Dressed in Citadel workout clothes and red, misty eyes, Moody said the two worst days in his life were the October 2014 day Brian told him his diagnosis and when Hurricane Hazel struck Myrtle Beach, wrecking his childhood home.
While exotic birds squawked next door, Moody opened up publicly about his love and his pain.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” said Moody, proud and happy to have had so many years and memories with a son who was a successful family man, public servant, and businessman. “I have the memories, but I hate that we won’t be making any more.”
Brian had years ago taken over Bill’s accounting firm as managing partner and then went into public service, serving on a host of local boards and efforts. Brian, the first Moody into politics, went on to serve more than a decade on the Charleston County School Board, where he was elected as its chairman.
Those were tough times for the school district, where all three of Bill’s now-grown children had attended school. Scores were down. Schools were in disrepair. There was little political will in the community for more funding for much needed improvements, especially after the district made a major multi-million dollar mistake in funding.
Brian’s calm demeanor and perseverance won out, as the community eventually voted for a Chamber-led effort to plug hundreds of millions into school projects. Brian went on to lead the Chamber, and the community has since voted to spend a total of close to $1 billion on school building projects, potentially transforming areas of town and untold children’s lives.
School wasn’t always a priority for Brian, says his dad. A sophomore at Clemson, he was floundering a bit, earning C’s, asking for a fifth year to accommodate the classes he’s already dropped.
Bill remembers sitting down with Brian, saying that if he wanted a C average, that was fine with him, even though it wasn’t his plan for his older son. “I told him this is your plan, your life … and that he’d end up getting a C job, and a C wife, and having C kids.”
The talk worked. Brian not only finished on time, he took 21 hours both of his final semesters and was on the Dean’s list for his higher grades. He scored A’s in the other categories too.
These days, Bill sees the grown children of friends getting into scrapes with the law. “I’d take that in a heartbeat if it mean I could have Brian back,” he says, his throat tightening, his voice growing raspy as tears try to fight their way out.
Bill recalls the day when Brian, with the aggressive glioblastoma tumor growing in his brain, came to him and asked his father to “get his affairs in order for him.”
That hurt. Bill knew exactly what to do. He’d always been a T’s crossed, I’s dotted kind of accountant, whereas Brian was always more of a “big picture guy” who welcomed leadership roles.
Like many fathers, Bill had an unwritten rule with Brian. “He was going to deliver my eulogy; but he told me I wasn’t going to deliver his — he said his two sons were going to do that. And they did a great job.”
Brian left behind more than a legacy off public service and success. He left behind a loving wife, Maribeth, an affectionate mom, Audrey, and sons William Brian Jr. and Benjamin Arthur; brother County Councilmember Brantley, who has followed the family footsteps into politics, a sister, Alison.
There are pictures of Brian all over Bill’s house, as well as photos of the rest of the family. That help sustains Bill these days. As do the memories and videos of family ski trips with all the grandchildren.
Brian’s mantra was to leave his community better than when he found it. And Charleston, and Bill Moody, are better for his life, even though both are saddened by his passing.
It will take time for that tree planted in his honor to flower. But it will. And it will be bittersweet.