Boy Motes remembered for community impact, Vail Award

Published 8:06 pm Monday, August 4, 2014

Messenger photo/ April Garon Helion Motes, the wife of the late Earnest Marshall “Boy” Motes, displays the Vail Medal Award.

Messenger photo/ April Garon
Helion Motes, the wife of the late Earnest Marshall “Boy” Motes, displays the Vail Medal Award.

On March 18, 1968, east of Troy on Highway 29, flames threatened to engulf a man and wife. A telephone cable repairman heard their screams for help and fought through yards of briar and undergrowth and waded through a lake to save their lives. The repair man carried the unconscious Mr. Hall fifty feet to safety and looked for help, then returned to the scene to find the flames coming closer to Hall and his wife. He carried Hall another 40 feet from the fire.

Mr. Hall did not survive that day, and his death was attributed to a heart attack. His wife left the scene with third degree burns, but alive, thanks to the telephone cable repairman.

This man was the late Earnest Marshall “Boy” Motes, Jr., who left an indelible mark on his community. Motes died at the age of 89 on July 19. He was praised for his contributions to Troy at a recent City Council meeting.

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“Motes served the city in many capacities, from the Board of Adjustments to the Rec League,” Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said. “He was a fine fellow and a hard worker.”

Motes wife, Helion, said he didn’t speak about the incident much, and she found out about it through people he worked with. She said it showed how humble he was.

“I was in awe about him and what he had done and to not say anything about it,” Helion Motes said.

Mote’s co-workers at Southern Bell Telephone Company went up the ranks of the company and told them of the good deed he had done, resulting in him being awarded the Vail Medal Award, presented on May 1, 1969.

According to a company publication, the award was given for “initiative, resourcefulness, courage, fortitude and accomplishment in averting or easing the effects of catastrophe, saving human life, maintaining or restoring telephone service and preventing or minimizing damage to property.” At that time, only eleven Vail Medals had been awarded in the state of Alabama since 1920, including the one given to Motes.

The medal was one of many examples of Motes’ grace and generosity, in the words of his friend and fellow coffee club member Robert Cary.

“Boy was a very gracious man, and certainly a gentleman,” Cary said. “He was generous with is time and his thoughts—he was a man that would always help you.”

Many people in Motes’ life didn’t know about the Vail award, outside of family. Cary didn’t know about it when asked. The award was one private example of greatness Motes exuded publicly.

“Troy has a strong tradition in youth baseball and has for over 50 years,” Troy Department of Parks and Recreation Director Dan Smith said. “You can count on one hand the men that started it and Boy Motes is at the top of that list.”

Boy coached baseball in Troy for over 40 years. He played on the Troy State University baseball team from 1946 to 1949 and then semi-pro baseball in the southeastern area in the late 1940’s. In 1955 he began coaching Dixie Youth Baseball and was the coach of the Troy Dixie Youth “Yankees” team for 20 years.

When Motes was 19, Motes enlisted in the Army during World War II. He was deployed to the Philipines, where he joined the Signal Corp. During this time he learned skills that helped him towards his career in the telephone business. He was among the first occupational forces to enter Japan in 1945 after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He later joined the Army Reserve and the Alabama National Guard and won many awards for his service.

The love story between Boy Motes and his wife Helion began at Helion Motes’ church homecoming in Shellhorn when she was 17 and saw Motes there. She had moved from the Shellhorn area and had not seen Motes in a long time.

“After three weeks, three dates and three love letters, we were married,” Helion Motes said. “I think it’s a wonderful love story and very beautiful. He told me he loved me on the first date and on the second date we were planning to be married.”

The Motes family has eight children. Motes built a family baseball field, and every night after work, he would play baseball with his kids. At the field, a sign reads, “For God and Family.”

“We would be out there waiting for him to come home,” Motes’ daughter Sandy Motes-McLure said.