THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED OCT. 23, 2014, IN THE HANNIBAL COURIER-POST
Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Thursday, October 23, 2014
Author: Mary Lou Montgomery
With a hand as steady as that of a fighter pilot, nonagenarian Len Moss precisely captures the visual images he deems interesting by drawing them onto paper.
A shelf filled with dated sketch books chronicle his past. His latest spiraled book represents his most recent experience, dated in August 2014 - a sailing cruise off the western coast of Scotland.
A stroll through the hallways and expanse of his home easily connects a visitor to all that's important to Moss, who has lived longer than most, but who's not finished living just yet.
Moss, at home in near Hannibal since 1967, has lived a life worth chronicling.
Drawing since the age of 4, his key experiences are captured in watercolor on his walls, just as others fill frames with treasured photos.
"My father (a seaman in the Navy) went around the World with the Great White Fleet on the flagship USS Connecticut, from 1907-09," Moss said. "Theodore Roosevelt wanted the world to know the U.S. had great power.
That was the beginning of the modern Navy." Back at home after the war, Elmo Ray Moss and Elizabeth Vance (Bess) Gosney Moss welcomed their second child, a son, at their home half way between Palmyra and Monroe City during a winter storm. "It was the worst blizzard," Len Moss said. "The doctor couldn't get out in it." Len Moss' mother died in 1926, and one of his sketching depicts her resting place at a Monroe City Cemetery.
The family relocated to Texas, where Moss studied art at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1934-38. His art teacher during his freshman year "was an elderly spinster lady named Miss Donaldson. She was old school," he said, insisting that her students "learn to draw first. We had nude models and drew all the muscles and bones." At the beginning of 1941, as it became apparent that the U.S. would become involved in what would become World War II, the U.S. military started increasing the number of pilots in training at Lambert Field in St. Louis. Moss - with his art degree - was among those trainees.
"I was a Naval Aviator," Moss said, "on the USS Brookline.
"We took the first troops in a convoy to North Africa," Moss said. The military had a training base there, "with a bunch of obsolete World War I airplanes." "You could see submarines under water," he said. "We'd carry a 325-foot depth charger. It had a nose that acted as a bomb. We would be flying around. If we saw a periscope, hopefully we'd sink the sub." During his career he flew the (Scout Observer Seaplane, the P40 War Hawk and the P51 Mustang.
"That was the top-notch fighter.
We could take care of ourselves" in that plane, he said.
The war years were just the beginning for Moss and his career.
He would serve until 1976, when he retired with 28 ½ years of service.
After World War II, his duties included flying the 4-engine turbo prop C130 Hercules, re-supplying NATO bases in Germany and taking troops and supplies in and out of Vietnam Len married Norma Donaldson of Hannibal.
Len's sister, Elizabeth Moss, married Gerald Riegel and they settled in Hannibal. The Riegels in turn became "home base" for Len and Norma and their family, who lived the military lifestyle for 28 years.
When it came time for retirement, Gerald Riegel - who had built several custom homes in Hannibal - offered to help build a house for his brother in-law's family, believing the project would take six months.
Two and a half years later, Len and Norma settled into a stone-faced, custom designed, multi-level house just over the hill from the Riegels.
The Riegels and Len's wife Norma are now gone, but the large south-facing windows in Len's first story studio still provide an inviting view of the nearby quarry lake and ample natural light for Len Moss's talent to continue to shine.