When I first came to Cowley College in September of 2015, a team of maintenance workers showed up at my office the second day I was here. “Anything you need us to do?” Todd Ray asked. I looked around, took stock, and thought for a moment. The visiting area with its round table and chairs seemed a bit small.
“Could ya’ll take out that big credenza that sits behind the desk and then help me move the desk unit over?” The desk unit was a large L-shaped affair, complete with a pull-out keyboard tray and filing drawers. Probably weighed over three hundred pounds. Todd directed in a friendly tone, “We’ll take care of moving this stuff; you just go ahead with something else.”
Within a half-hour, the credenza was gone and the desk pulled back toward that wall. The move created another twenty square feet of space in the visiting area. Perfect.
Among the group of truly pleasant and helpful fellows that showed up to help was Jon Moore.
Jon looked to be about my age, maybe a few years younger. He was slightly taller and maybe twenty or thirty pounds heavier and definitely more solid. His forearms were thick, shoulders full. The way he moved, spoke, and looked at people showed a friendly confidence. A ready smile and eyes that focused on yours when he talked conveyed genuineness, honesty and sincerity. I also got the clear notion that in spite of his soft-spoken manner and kind expression, there was a depth of strength and resolve that you’d prefer be on your side if a situation ever called for such things.
None of the subsequent encounters I had with him failed to reinforce that original impression. After he shifted from the maintenance crew to campus security, he’d stop by my office on his evening rounds. “Hey, Doc, how are you doing? Working late?” We’d chat for a few minutes and then he’d say goodbye and move on and I’d get back to whatever I’d been doing.
No matter where or when I saw him, he was always the same: friendly, genuine, humble and confident. I always felt better after talking with him, even if we spoke for only a moment. I suspect it was largely due to that sense of genuine caring.
Just a couple of months after I resigned my job at the college in 2018, I saw Jon Moore on a backroad out near Camp Horizon.
Mark Flickinger and I were out hiking in the middle of October, training for an excursion to the Grand Canyon. We’d passed an empty pickup truck earlier and had reached our turnaround point and were headed back. As we approached the truck, we saw a man dressed in camos coming out of the field and headed to the truck. It was Jon.
We stopped and shook hands, visited, laughed together in the manner of men who like each other and are truly glad to see each other. There was a hint of rain and the skies to the west were darkening. Mark and I still had about three or four miles to go and so we said goodbye and watched Jon drive away.
“He’s a good guy, isn’t he?” I said. “He sure is,” Mark quickly agreed. A few sprinkles fell on us as we walked toward the overhanging trees and walked beneath them, grateful for the shelter in our passing.
I had no idea that was the last time I’d ever see or speak with Jon. Almost exactly a year later, cancer killed him. I didn’t even know he was sick until another friend told me he’d passed away.
There was so much about Jon I didn’t know. I didn’t know he’d been born in England. I didn’t know he’d worked as a police officer for years before working at Cowley College. I didn’t know where he’d gone to school.
I guess much of what I didn’t know was because I didn’t ask. And I think part of it was because Jon always seemed more interested in other people and in other things than in talking about himself. I know that even though I didn’t know him any better than I did, there is still a hole in my heart today and I wish there was some way that I could tell him how much I respected him and appreciated him.
It is not an easy thing to lose such folks as Jon Moore. The closer they are, the bigger the hole they leave behind. But the good that they bring to the world, the good that they bring to our lives, and the good that they leave behind them in our hearts and memories will eventually help soften the pain of losing them.