Was Former Mayor
And Library Leader,
Also Served On Co.
Board Of Education
BY KEN LITTLE
AND AMY ROSE
Shock and sadness are the immediate reactions to news of the sudden passing Thursday of Mosheim alderman and Greene County Board of Education member Claude B. "Junior" Weems Jr., who died in a farm accident.
Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services (EMS) answered a 911 call at 3:24 p.m. Thursday about a man lying in a field at 60 West School St.
EMS personnel "saw the back end of a hay baler" about 75 feet from where Weems was found, EMS Director Robert Sayne said in an interview.
Friends said Weems was apparently baling hay and fell off a tractor. He appeared to have been dragged a distance in the field by farm equipment he was using, Sayne said.
Sayne said Weems, 79, suffered "multiple trauma-type injuries," and was in cardiac arrest when the EMS crew arrived.
He was rushed by EMS to Takoma Regional Hospital. En route, he was able to be rescusitated, and he was immediately flown by a waiting Wings Air Rescue helicopter to Johnson City Medical Center.
He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival there, Sayne said.
Weems, of 275 Main St., was a member of the first Mosheim Board of Mayor and Aldermen, in 1974, and served as the town's mayor from 1978-82.
He returned to the board in 1999 and had been serving as 2nd Ward alderman since then.
In addition, since 2002 he had been a member of the Greene County Board of Education, representing the 4th School Board District.
The district includes Mosheim Elementary and Middle School, Glenwood and McDonald elementary schools, and West Greene High School.
STRONG INTEREST IN LIBRARY
Weems took a very strong interest in the Mosheim Public Library and had been a member of its board of directors ever since the library was established in 1980, in a much smaller space than at present.
He was a key force in the effort that resulted in the construction of the new, greatly expanded Mosheim Public Library in 2001.
At an open house at the new library in September 2001 attended by then-Secretary of
State Riley Darnell, then-State Sen. Tommy Haun recalled that ever since Weems approached him about
the possibility of state assistance to help provide Mosheim with a new, expanded library, the former
mayor had been "a little pit bull -- well, a big one -- that wouldn't turn loose."
Haun spoke of the former alderman with friendship and respect in an interview this morning and confirmed that Weems was a major leader in the establishment of the new library.
He was serving as the current chairman of the library's board of directors.
'ALWAYS READY TO DO ANYTHING'
Longtime Mosheim Mayor Billy Myers said in an interview Thursday evening that he knew Weems his entire life. The two men are first cousins, and Myers said Thursday he had lost a good friend.
Myers said Weems was dedicated to helping members of the community, both in his position as a Mosheim alderman and as a member of the Greene County school board.
"He was always ready to do anything I'd ask him to do, to help me," Myers said. "I'm going to miss him bad for a long time."
Weems cared about people and was always assisting others, Myers said.
"He really enjoyed the school board. He just liked to help the community," the mayor said.
FARMING IN HIS BLOOD
Weems was retired from the former Magnavox Company of Tennesse. Besides community service, farming was another of his passions, Myers said. "He enjoyed working the land and helping other people."
Weems was doing just that on Thursday afternoon, helping out a neighbor baling hay, when the accident occurred.
Yhona Jones, former principal at Mosheim Elementary School, had just heard the bad news Thursday night and was deeply shaken.
Jones is the wife of Roger Jones, chairman of the Greene County Board of Education.
Weems was working in the school maintenance department when Yhona Jones, as a young teacher, first met him more than 30 years ago.
"He's real special to us," she said. "He was well loved and well respected."
"He was an integral part of the Mosheim community in every way. He served in so many capacities in leadership roles," Yhona Jones said.
ACTS OF GENEROSITY
She recalled Weems paying for musical instruments for students in the school band program.
"He was an extraordinary man," Jones said. "He will be sorely missed."
If Weems was to lose his life, helping others was a fitting way for him to go, she commented.
"He's just such a precious man," she said. "We have people in our lives who make an impact. He made an impact in every life he touched."
'POSTER CHILD' OF SORTS
Roger Jones, the school board chairman, spent part of Thursday night at Johnson City Medical Center with the Weems family. He was also deeply moved.
"I've known him all my life, basically. I grew up in that area, and our families have been lifelong friends," Jones said.
Junior Weems "was sort of a poster child for a community person. He loved Mosheim and West Greene," he said.
The new classroom wing of West Greene High School, opened earlier this year with the support of Weems and other school board members, is named after Weems.
A dedication ceremony was to have been held when school started. It will now focus more on the memory of the man who was instrumental in seeing that the addition was built, Jones said.
"I'd almost bet he's been in some type of public service for 45 years ...," Jones said.
ICON IN THE COMMUNITY
"The Mosheim community and the West Greene community have lost something that is irreplaceable. He was an icon in the community, and he is a role model we all need to follow," Jones said.
Weems had served on the school board since 2002.
Jones said he valued Weems' counsel on important issues facing the school system.
"He visited the schools almost weekly, and he just had a wealth of knowledge. I relied on him heavily over the years, and he just had a great rapport with everybody that was around," Jones said.
"As he got older, he got quieter, but he was greatly respected by the school board, and we will greatly miss him."
PLOWED PEOPLE'S GARDENS
Weems loved to work the land for the benefit of friends, Jones said.
"He got pleasure in life by helping others. He probably plowed 50 people's yards each year just so they could have a garden."
"You hate to see anybody leave us," Jones said, "but [the situation which led to his death] was very fitting because he was helping someone else do work on their garden. He was baling hay for a neighbor."
Weems "had a love for his community that I wish and I hope spreads to anyone else who came in contact with him, because that's what being a neighbor is all about," Jones said.
DR. KIRK COMMENTS
Weems was a supporter of Dr. Vicki Kirk, who became Greene County director of schools in 2010.
Kirk was in tears when she was contacted by The Greeneville Sun shortly after 8 a.m. today.
"We are all heartbroken," she said.
"The school system has lost a tremendous champion for their children, and the community has lost one of their great pillars."
"He loved Mosheim, and he worked his whole life to make it better. There will never be another one like him," she said.
Kirk described Weems as "the epitome of a servant.
"He was always giving, and that's what he was doing yesterday -- he was helping somebody," she said.
"We will miss him desperately," she said.
LARRY BIBLE COMMENTS
Weems became a close friend to Larry Bible during Bible's 12 years as principal of West Greene High School.
Bible said he was at the hospital Thursday evening with Weems' family.
While everyone knows about Weems' community service, "Junior was my friend, most of all," Bible said.
Bible recalled times when Weems' position on the school board may have made it tough to be a friend of the WGHS principal, but Weems always supported him.
Weems visited WGHS often and told Bible he was doing a good job and that he appreciated what he was doing.
"I could count on him being there two to three times a week," Bible said.
Bible also referred to Weems' willingness to help others.
"He plowed everybody's garden in Mosheim," Bible said.
"The West Greene-Mosheim community just lost its greatest advocate," Bible said. "I lost a good friend."
Funeral services for Weems are incomplete and will be announced by Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home.