video credit: USA Today
video credit: USA Today
Andrew Moore lived alone and died alone. He was raised in an orphanage, never married and outlived his friends. For his last 40 years, the World War II veteran slept on a couch in a rent-controlled efficiency apartment in the nation’s capital.
The 89-year-old pensioner died in December with no will, no instructions and no next of kin. He lay in a cold room at the D.C. medical examiner’s office, where the unclaimed dead are usually destined for a nameless pauper’s grave.
Instead, on Friday, Moore was given a hero’s sendoff at Arlington National Cemetery. A uniformed honor guard escorted Moore’s flag-covered remains. In place of a silent goodbye, a bugler played taps and three volleys of rifle fire marked his passing.
How was a lonely man diverted from the oblivion of a potter’s field for the glory of his country’s most hallowed resting place? It was the work of a family Moore may not have known he had: the residents of State House, a post-WWII apartment building at the edge of Washington’s Embassy Row.
His neighbors in that vertical village didn’t know much about the affable old-timer who smoked on the front steps. But they knew this: He deserved a dignified goodbye.
Most residents of the eight-story, 308-unit State House probably never heard Andy Moore’s name. He was just one of the building’s fixtures, the friendly Redskins fanatic — always wearing the burgundy-and-gold cap — in Apartment 307. He would bring the staff members Hershey’s Kisses from his outings to CVS or cookies from the McDonald’s on 17th Street in Northwest Washington, where he would play pickup chess.
“I offered to replace his AC unit once, and he said not to bother,” said building engineer Damian Greenleaf, who took a half-day off from work to attend Moore’s funeral at Arlington. “He said, ‘Don’t bother, I prefer the breeze.’”
It was Bill Sheppard and Nick Addams who spearheaded the effort to make Moore’s funeral something more than minimal. The two single retirees count themselves among the State House’s “sociables,” those residents who make a point to chat in the lobby, to pierce the urban anonymity of a busy city dwelling.
Moore was a sociable, too. That’s how they pieced together bits of his history: a stint in the Navy, dispatched to the Philippines; a few years in the Coast Guard. He had worked at a federal warehouse and then for an insurance company, maybe as a janitor. For a man who loved to gab and could delay the mail carrier with a half-hour of football talk, he didn’t share much about himself.
“We knew a little, but there were big gaps in it,” Sheppard said.
He had no family, about that he was clear. He told more than one person that his mother was a Native American who dropped him off at a Catholic orphanage in Omaha.
“I always assumed it was Boys Town,” said Sheppard, 65, who retired young from a career with an international airport vendor.“ He was quite proud of it. He said the priests and the nuns taught him discipline.”
Boys Town confirmed that an Andrew Moore with the same birthday lived at the famous facility in 1942 when he was 16, but not for long. “We don’t know much, because he was only with us a month and then he ran away,” said spokeswoman Kara Neuverth.
Moore was in his 70s when Sheppard moved to the building 15 years ago. Moore had a knack for putting strangers at ease, and the two struck up a smokers’ friendship outside the front door. Soon Sheppard was helping his upstairs neighbor make sense of the cable box. They watched a few games together, even though Sheppard is no football fan.
“It was impossible not to like him,” Sheppard said.
Moore’s health faded in recent years, as did his memory. He began to call Nick Addams “Calvin” for unknown reasons.
“I just answered to it,” Addams said with a laugh.
‘We should do something’
After a fall in 2014, Moore spent time in a rehabilitation hospital. Officials there had a court-appointed guardian assigned to him and wanted to move him to a nursing home. But Moore insisted on returning to State House.
“Mr. Moore was a very strong-willed character, and he was having none of it,” said attorney Charles Fitzpatrick, who served as Moore’s guardian. “I was dubious, but I really admired the fact that he was able to do what he wanted to do.”
Moore came back with a walker, always asserting he would soon be done with it. He never walked unaided again, but he did live another eight months on his own.
“This was his home,” Addams said.
When an ambulance pulled up in December, Sheppard immediately thought of Moore. Sure enough, a desk clerk told him Moore had been taken to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. A few days later, a manager told Sheppard he had died of heart failure.
Sheppard and Addams were in the lobby, lamenting the loss of their neighbor. That could have been it. He wasn’t exactly a friend. They didn’t know much about him. It was city living; people come and go.
But they kept thinking of two things: the Navy and the Coast Guard.
“I’m a veteran, too,” said Addams, who served in the Army during the Korean War. “I thought we should do something.”
Addams is also a D.C. tour guide, a retirement gig that has made him very familiar with the rites and rituals of Arlington National Cemetery. He knew that although it was hard to qualify for an Arlington grave, any veteran with someone pushing for him could have his ashes inurned there, with full military honors.
It was an instant plan. Sheppard was the writer, drafting the appeal for funds they would hang on every doorknob in the building. Addams was the paper pusher, digging up Moore’s service record from the Pentagon, navigating the bureaucracies.
“The medical examiner’s office was extremely helpful,” Addams said. When a person there “heard that he was a veteran, she said they could arrange for him to be buried at Quantico. But we were committed to Arlington. There is no place like Arlington.”
Under D.C. law, unclaimed or indigent deceased are cremated at public expense and buried with multiple sets of ashes in a single casket. Veterans, when they are identified, are sent to Quantico National Cemetery. But after a 30-day waiting period, anyone willing to shoulder the expense of burial can arrange to have the body sent to a funeral home.
“It doesn’t happen in a lot of our cases, but we do see the community come together like this, church members, neighbors,” said Jennifer Love, a forensic anthropologist at the agency. “We call it releasing to the ‘next of friend.’ ”
Finally, bearing a letter from the medical examiner’s office explaining how he came to have custody of Moore’s remains, Addams went to Arlington. At first, officials were reluctant to recognize him as the crucial PADD (Person Authorized to Direct Disposition). “I had to ask for a supervisor,” Addams said. “Usually they are talking to a brother or a close friend. I was just the guy down the hall.”
Meanwhile, Sheppard’s solicitations were paying off. Envelopes began to slide under Addams’s door: $5, $20, a few $50s, one check for $250. In all, State House residents gave about $2,000 to honor a man some had never said more than hello to. The pair sent each donor a thank-you note and, when plans were complete, information about the funeral.
They spent about $1,500 on the cremation, a cremation certificate, the death certificate. They will give the leftover money to a veterans group.
They decided not to buy a special urn. Moore wouldn’t have cared about that, they said.
So Friday, with a cool wind whipping across Arlington’s hills, the Stars and Stripes draped the cardboard box containing Moore’s ashes. A Coast Guard honor guard folded the flag with grave precision before handing it to Sheppard. After the ceremony, Addams was given a felt bag containing the 21 shells fired in Moore’s honor.
And as his neighbors — make that his family — looked on, a man who spent his life alone took his place for eternity amid a host of heroes.
Here are six ways we can give ourselves away daily without cost.
Beautiful words that are often attributed to Francis of Assisi, however the actual author is unknown. They first appeared in print over one hundred years ago as part of a prayer titled Peace Prayer. Our world is still in dire need of each.
Please contribute today. Thank you.
To achieve a life of success, no matter how you define it, gratitude is imperative …we all know this. But, our gratitude must also extend to our self. It’s easy for us to forget that. We shouldn’t.
Like me, you may have heard people express regrets as they approach the winter of their years about their shortcomings and failures. Often they are disappointed that their lives didn’t quite turn out they way they had planned, had expected, or had hoped. Most of us enter adulthood full of ideas, spirit, energy, and grand intentions. It seems at the time that we are eternal, if not immortal.
We eventually discover, however, that while life can be fun and engaging, it also becomes progressively more challenging when dealing with finances, careers, families, responsibilities, losses, and so much more. Most of us do an admirable job navigating the changes and challenges. We work hard and do what we feel is the right thing. We set goals and lay out life plans, but often find it increasingly more difficult to stay on track. We find that the years pass faster than we imagined they could. We learn to grow with our years and deal with our tears. Maybe we feel that we will never be able to make the mark that we had planned.
As I write this, the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus”comes to mind. As Mr. Holland, portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, approaches the end of his career, seemingly disappointed with his mundane accomplishments in work and life, he is presented with evidence that his work ethic and compassion over the years have made a mark much more meaningful than he thought. This opus ends with quite a crescendo. (If per chance you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend that you do. It is a very moving and uplifting film.)
No matter what you have achieved in life …or haven’t, Max Ehrman, author of “Desiderata,” penned a poem called “A Prayer” that makes it a bit easier for us to accept ourselves for who we are, and to thank ourselves for our efforts in life.
Enjoy, and please do be thankful to yourself for yourself.
by Max Ehrman
Let me do my work each day;
And if the darkened hours of despair overcome me,
May I not forget the strength that comforted me
In the desolation of other times.
May I still remember the bright hours that found me
Walking over the silent hills of my childhood,
Or dreaming on the margin of the quiet river,
When a light glowed within me,
And I promised my early God to have courage
Amid the tempests of the changing years.
Spare me from bitterness
And from the sharp passions of unguarded moments.
May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not,
May my thoughts and actions be such
As shall keep me friendly with myself.
Lift my eyes from the earth,
And let me not forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others,
Lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of the world,
But walk calmly in my path.
Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am;
And keep ever burning before my vagrant steps
The kindly light of hope.
And though age and infirmity overtake me,
And I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams,
Teach me still to be thankful for life,
And for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet;
And may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. (even if it’s not a holiday for you today) 🙂
Bicycles and tricycles for special needs children have adaptations like foot straps, torso supports and adjustable parts. They cost from $800 to $5,000, said Andrew McLindon, 53, founder of the foundation.
Over seven years, the McLindon Family Foundation has given away adaptive tricycles to children in nine states, helping them feel the independence and freedom of riding a bike.
McLindon’s love of bicycles led him to give away adaptive bikes. After success with the commercial construction company he started in 1989, he added auxiliary businesses that became Mainspring Companies, a group of construction, maintenance and real estate development enterprises.