Actor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sam Shepard dies at 73
The family of Sam Shepard announced Monday that the acclaimed artist died at his farm outside Midway the previous Thursday from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actor, author and musician, was 73. Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said while he doesn't consider himself a friend of Shepard's, the two had several brief conversations over the years. "He was always very kind and happy to say 'Hi.' I think he came here to get away from it all. You could always tell he liked to have that sphere of anonymity. I think that's why he liked Midway. I don't think he came here to be a celebrity," said Vandegrift, whose family owned 815 Prime, a Main Street restaurant. It was there, several years ago, that Vandegrift discovered another, lesser known talent of Shepard's. Vandegrift said a bluegrass/country band was playing in the restaurant and Shepard asked if he could join them on guitar. Before about 30 people, they played "Brownsville Girl," a Bob Dylan song. "He played it great," Vandegrift said. "Someone kind of whispered to me, 'He co-wrote that song with Dylan.' It was such a surreal moment." The day Shepard's passing was announced, Mike Moore and his wife, Maureen, were sharing a bite to eat at the Grey Goose when they learned of his death. Moore, from Illinois, had two encounters with Shepard -the first in 1996, in Atlanta, during the Olympic Games there. Moore said he believed Shepard was there shooting a movie with actress Diane Lane (likely "The Only Thrill," which was released the following year). Moore and a few friends walked into a bar to get a drink and he spotted Shepard. His friends didn't believe him when he told them it was Shepard, so Moore approached Shepard, who was sitting by himself. "I said, 'Excuse me, are you Sam Shepard?' And he goes, 'Yeah,' and I say, 'Hi, I'm Mike Moore. I've seen your movies, I love your acting.' 'Here, sit down and have a beer, Mike.'" Moore said Shepard told him. The two spoke for a few minutes, and Moore's friends realized the man he was having a beer with was indeed Shepard. The buzz grew, and shortly thereafter, Shepard politely told him, "Mike, I need to go. Nice having a beer with you." In 2015, in town on horse business, Moore was about to enter a Midway restaurant when he saw Shepard on his way into a next-door establishment. "And I had my western hat on, and he kind of looked at me like he recognized me," Moore said. Moore said he approached Shepard, each saying he thought he recognized the other - but Shepard thought he was a horse trainer. Moore explained that they'd had a beer together nearly two decades before. Like Vandegrift, Moore didn't pretend that he was a friend of Shepard - but said that he found him friendly nonetheless. "He was very receptive at the bar in Atlanta, and then I came here and I said, 'I never did get a picture. You had to leave abruptly.' And you hate to bug celebrities for a photo and he was talking to some other people at the bar, but he said ... 'Come on in' and he was very cordial," Moore said. "A nice man."