Whittle: Know those living legends

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Even before first grade at boyhood Canalou (Mo.) School of advanced thinking and higher ciphering, I knew about legends such as Tennessee's Davy Crockett and Sam Houston.

But, I'm talking about two here-and-now, living, breathing, walking-around-town legends, both serving the public good.

And my home town agrees business/civic leaders Jim Demos and John Hood are more than qualified as the two most recent "Business Legends of the Year" as decreed by folks in the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
What are life's components that go into the making of a living legend?

Remarks made at respective induction ceremonies in 2013 and 2014 by legends Hood and Demos help clarify their remarkable walks through this community.

"It's been said community service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth," Hood stated from his lofty speaking podium where living legends are christened. "I'm just trying to keep my rent paid up."

Former Smyrna Town Manager Mark O'Neal, who attended, commented afterward: "Mr. John Hood, you are paid up for several lifetimes."

Humility may be a key component of achieving living legend status.

"I'm the son of a Greek immigrant who came to a strange, wonderful country, not knowing the language, but wanting a better life," restaurant legend Demos shared at his 2013 induction as a Chamber Business Legend. "And after Dad died, I'm the son of a mother who had to accept welfare assistance. It's with a great deal of humility tonight, being in the company of all those who have been honored before … I'm overcome with emotion."

Crediting others may also be a key to becoming a living legend.

"I'm thankful for all those who gave me career choices over the years, ranging from Cecil Elrod and Virgil Trimm, to Carl Steidtmann and Tom Morgan, to Bob Abernathy and Quill Cope, to Jack Weatherford and Ed Loughry, to Sidney McPhee … and yes, to the voters of the 48th Tennessee Legislative District," John Hood said.

With Sir Hood's credits to others, he accounted for those who helped in his career ranging from early news broadcasting, to being in charge of personnel at the old Samsonite Plant, to helping recruit State Farm Insurance's regional office, being there when the Chamber of Commerce was founded back in 1951, an eventual banking career and today, as a regular Chamber diplomat while serving as a roving ambassador for Middle Tennessee State University.

Legend Hood is still firing out for his community past milestone birthday 80.

Living legend Demos, in his 2013 remarks, also credited others: "If not for Doris (deceased), my true life and business partner for 52 years, I'd be sitting out there in the audience honoring someone else up here tonight.
"Doris was reared a sharecropper's daughter, eking out a meager childhood existence and going hungry at times," Demos added with obvious emotion.

Then, legend Demos acknowledged love for the community.

"It was 1976 (with their first restaurant in Rutherford County) when we fell in love with Murfreesboro," Demos credited. "There was magic we felt from the people here … that magic is still here."

Hood also credits community in reaching his lofty legendary status: "We all are so fortunate to have such a great community with so many opportunities, that you can make a life here. And what a great Chamber of Commerce we have serving our community."

On a personal level, the thousands of us who claim these two living legends as loyal friends, we are the blessed ones.

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Dan Whittle
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