ALBANY — Early last year, things were rocking along pretty well for the Dougherty County School System and Superintendent Butch Mosely. Test scores were rising along with graduation rates.
Then it all came to a screeching halt when, over the long Christmas break, Mosely was diagnosed with a recurrence of the bladder cancer he had beaten several years earlier. Mosely immediately began chemotherapy and radiation treatment and announced he would step down from his superintendent’s position at the end of the school year to combat the cancer.
“I loved what I did, and I loved to work with young people. I loved to see good things happen to them,” Mosely, who had spent more than 50 years of his life in education, said.
Last week he was the featured speaker at the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia’s annual Night for Hope gala.
“Not only did I beat cancer,” Mosley, 76, said, “I beat it twice.”
After his retirement, Mosely said he and his wife, June, hit the road.
“We’ve had some wonderful trips, seen many nice sights along the way,” he said.
Perhaps the bigger adjustment has been for June, who is acclimating to having her husband around their farm in Climax every day.
“Can I say no comment?” she said, laughing, in response to a question about having the hubby around all the time. “But it’s good for us. It’s different. I’m enjoying it because it’s great to have somebody to have lunch with and somebody to fix coffee in the morning. That’s never happened in 51 years.”
Mosely said his message for attendees at the gala as well as to those currently battling cancer and those who will battle it in the future is one of hope and gratitude.
“I have a message of gratitude to a lot of people who helped me through that journey,” he said. “Hopefully, I can help the Cancer Coalition raise some money for this worthy cause. I was fortunate in having good insurance and good doctors. I was in a good enough financial situation where I didn’t have to ask for help. But there are many others who have not been as fortunate as I have. If I can help them, I am more than willing.
“I don’t feel I am necessarily deserving of this recognition because there are so many others who have been through much more than I have. But I am glad to be used if I can help.”
Looking back over the dramatic changes of the past year, Mosely would not say he thought he’d been given a second lease on life.
“I had another option, but if I had ignored my situation, I would have died, no doubt,” he said. “I had an ace in the hole in that if the chemo and radiation had not worked, I could have had surgery (to remove the tumor on his bladder) to survive. But I didn’t want to do that. I’ll know next week if I am still clean.”
In the meantime, Mosely has just bought a herd of cattle and plans to become a cowboy again. But he won’t be a cowboy on horseback. He’ll be riding a four-wheeler.
“We’re still running quail hunts through the farm. I’ll stay busy; I don’t do sitting down very well. I need to do physical work to get my strength back instead of working my brain,” he said. “I still do a little part-time consulting work that keeps me in the educational field. I really hated to have to leave here with a year to go, but I can’t control everything like I thought I could.”
Now that he’s had the time since his retirement and treatments to look back, Mosely said the most difficult part of the past year was learning to tap the brakes on his life.
“Slowing down has been hard. I never thought stress bothered me, and maybe it does take a toll you don’t realize,” he said. “Being foot-loose and fancy-free without the responsibility of making decisions that affect a lot of people made me realize I maybe needed a more relaxed lifestyle. But I also don’t want to just sit in a chair and not care anymore either.”
In a couple of weeks, the Moselys will make a two-week trip to their beach house at Port St. Joe. It will be the longest vacation they have taken in 51 years.