Bahamian fisherman’s grandson becomes big fish at UNK
Moses Moxey, the first black and international student body president, says he learned much from his grandfather’s humble life.
(His name rhymes with “holy.”)
The man was so meek and lowly, a bonefish guide in the Bahamas who became a legend over the years as people came from around the world to hang with him on his boat.
Ernest Hemingway … President Nixon … Martin Luther King Jr. … Those were just a few of the people with famous names he’d guide to the best spot in the deep sea.
His smile, big and gummy.
His stories. His stutter.
His strange talent for attracting both people and fish.
“The fish have always seemed to prefer my lines,” he explained one time, when urged to tell the story of his success. “And I’m a lucky man because the fish are still biting.”
A Bahamian singer once wrote a hit song about him to a happy island beat. The singer, Phil Stubbs, walked into Bonefish’s yard one day with a cassette player to debut the song for him and his family.
Bonefish Folley. He’s so meek and lowly.
Bonefish Folley. He’s the one and only.
“Who’s Bonefish Folley?” a grandson asked. He didn’t know his humble “Grampy” was a celebrity.
That grandson was like a son to Bonefish. The boy followed him everywhere. His mom was one of Bonefish’s daughters. She had brought the boy to the Lord, but she didn’t have much time to play with him because she had to work so hard. His parents were divorced. He didn’t see his dad a lot.
Bonefish was the boy’s No. 1 guide in life.
The boy watched Bonefish treat everyone with kindness. The boy saw how hard he worked to make a living. He was on the sea almost every day. When the boy was sick, he’d sleep beside Bonefish, small head on his hard chest. When the boy was a teenager and thought he had more important things to do, he’d run through the house before Bonefish could sit him down for a long talk.
But those talks were some of the best times in that boy’s life.
Bonefish died in 2012, just a week before reaching 92. Late one afternoon, he must have just sat down on the edge of his bed and laid back. They found him that way, as if in a deep sleep.
He lived long enough to see that grandson go off to college far from home, to the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
He felt proud when he heard his grandson had earned a 3.77 GPA that first semester – his grandson hadn’t been much of a student. He felt proud when he heard his grandson had fit right in on campus despite the deep, white snow and gray days and lack of many other black students. He felt proud when the grandson helped reorganize the black students association at UNK. (Like his grandfather, the grandson had a knack for making people feel welcome.)
But Bonefish didn’t live long enough to see that grandson’s own story unfold in a most surprising way, or to see that many people in that spot so far from home now know that grandson’s good name.
Moses is a senior now at UNK. He will graduate in December with a degree in Industrial Distribution. Last spring, the student body elected him president. He became the first black student and the first international student to become student body president at UNK. He won by a 2-to-1 vote.
Moses sits in the student union of UNK this March day, being urged to tell his own story of success.
“I’m just humbled and blessed to have this opportunity,” he says. “I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”
His last day in office will be April 15. He can hardly believe he made it to this point. He got to UNK, you could say – and he would say – by begging.
He had a dream of being something besides a boat captain.
In the Bahamas, he says, UNK has a good name. He had heard about it. People he knew with good jobs had gone to UNK. He wanted to go there, too. But he didn’t have money. He didn’t have the grades or the athletic ability for scholarships.
But he believed in himself.
He put together a portfolio that included a list of his accomplishments and a letter that was his mission statement. He put on good clothes. He walked to a fancy hotel on the beach and asked vacationers there, complete strangers, if they’d sponsor him at college.
“I got escorted off the property a few times.”
He heard a lot of nos. But he heard yes sometimes, too.
His grandfather did what he could. Though Bonefish Folley’s wallet had no money, it was stuffed with business cards of CEO’s and millionaires and other people of means. He handed the cards to Moses, who phoned the people whose names were on those cards.
Hi, I’m Moses Moxey, Bonefish Folley’s grandson …
Once he arrived at UNK, Moses studied harder than he ever had in his life. He wanted to prove to the people who had believed in him that they were right. He sent them updates on his grades and campus accomplishments.
When he became student body president, Moses says, they were proud.
“When I think about it, my heart starts racing again because I know how life-or-death it was to me to get that sponsorship and be on my way.”
And Bonefish Folley, though so meek and lowly, probably would have been proud, too, if he had lived to see it.
“All you would see is gum – he’d be smiling ear to ear. I think he would have been blown away.”
Moses can’t imagine himself with any woman other than the one he met at UNK, and who became his wife, Nakuya.
He’d noticed her around campus. Nakuya was as tall and beautiful as a model. She was a track athlete for the Lopers. She was popular and fun. People noticed her as she walked across campus and they knew her name.
One day in the cafeteria, friends at his table were talking to her. He wouldn’t.
He believed in himself, he says. But not that much!
“I thought she was like Beyonce or Halle Berry.”
She thought he was mean.
Another day, standing next to her in line at the cafeteria, he finally blurted out that she was beautiful, and it grew quickly from there. He met her family, who lived in Lincoln.
One August day in 2012, Moses went to Nakuya’s apartment to take her swimming.
His brother phoned him from the Bahamas.
Did you hear?
Moses crumpled to the floor at the news of his grandfather’s death. Bonefish Folley hadn’t even been sick. He’d been so fit, and the fish still were biting.
Nakuya later told Moses that she had never seen anyone sob for so long.
Woke up early one morning to the rising sun
It’s bonefish season, and they on the run
I’ve got to find Bonefish Folley and get me some
See, when it comes to bone fishing, he’s No. 1.
“He was my dad, my friend,” Moses says. “I felt like I was lost. But as days went by, I was reminded by my faith that I’m going to see him again, and that he’s not dead. He’s alive in me. His teachings will live on forever because I will pass them on.”
Moses returned to the Bahamas for the funeral. He rode in the boat that carried his grandfather’s casket. Many other boats followed. They stopped at a spot deep in the sea.
Then they returned the casket to the shore and to the church, where Moses sang a holy song called “Tomorrow.”
But this story of Moses Moxey must end with another happy song. So, being urged, he sings it now.
He’s Bonefish Folley. He’s so meek and lowly.
Bonefish Folley. He’s the one and only.
“Isn’t it lively?” he says, smiling. “It makes me feel so proud. And the one thing is, we didn’t have any money. Zero, you know. He was famous, but not wealthy – nothing at all.
“All he had was his name. And that was worth a lot.”
Student Support and Global Engagement are two top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year. If you would like to make the dream of higher education come true for a UNK student like Moses, please consider giving online or contact the foundation’s Lucas Dart at 800-436-3216.
When the campaign started, 2,437 international students like Moses attended the University of Nebraska. But by 2013, that number had increased to 3,638 – a record high.