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Friends, family mourn community servants

POSTED: February 19, 2014 4:00 a.m.
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Dawson County lost two dedicated volunteers whose work in the community left the area better than they found it, friends say.

Ken Newell, the longtime director and board member at the RIC Rack Thrift store and community food pantry, died Feb. 9.

Less than a week later, on Feb. 15, Gunny Moore, whose service focused on the lives of local Vietnam veterans, passed away at northeast Georgia Medical Center.

While both men experienced years of declining health, neither would let their conditions keep them from their dedication to their individual causes.

"Gunny, I'm pretty sure he was at our last Veterans Day parade. He didn't get out of the car, but he was there supporting it," said friend and fellow Marine Wayne Watkins.

Charlie Berry said Newell, a longtime friend, did the same.

"He was there at the RIC Rack up until December. He stepped down as director a while back but he remained on the board," Berry said. "He was dedicated. He gave endless hours and had a personal dedication to RIC Rack."

During his time as director, the thrift store expanded from a small basement to a flourishing discount center. The food pantry serves hundreds of local families each month.

"Dawson County is a better place now because of Ken than it was when he moved here 18 years ago," Berry said.

Moore's involvement as a community leader was one he at first avoided.

"He wasn't a joiner. He'd tell you that in a minute," Watkins said.

Moore summed up his feelings during an interview in 2012.

"Coming back from Vietnam, I wasn't treated wonderfully by the VFW or the American Legion, so I stayed away from the veteran organizations," he said.

Moore, a career lawman, was working at the county courthouse when Watkins approached him about forming a local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

During the group's first meeting, he was elected vice president.

"All these folks, they're family. They've become family to me," he said.

One of the group's 25 charter members, Moore played an active role in recruiting new members, as well as assisted in veteran activities and fundraising efforts for the chapter.

"He was a great guy, and a hell of a Marine," Watkins said.

A memorial service for Moore will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 at Bearden Funeral Home Chapel.

Newell's service is also set for 2 p.m., on the same day, at First Baptist Church of Dawsonville.



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