It’s taken me some time to get to this point where I am ready to write this post. When I first heard of my Grandfather’s passing, by listening to a message left on my Google Voice number by my Step Dad, I fell to the ground and wept. Russell Moore was not only my Grandfather. He was the one true and steady father figure in my life. I’ll miss him more than I can express. But, he will live on. In the memory of those who knew and loved him, in the things he taught us and in the unique way he saw the world.
Russell Lawrence Moore was born on September 14th, 1924. Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States. IBM had first formed that year. And the first photo had been sent experimentally across the Atlantic by radio between the U.S. & Great Britain. No man had yet set foot on the moon. There weren’t any artificial satellites orbitting the earth. The integrated circuit hadn’t been invented yet. And cell phones and tablet computers were only just things of imagination. Russ lived in a time when all these inventions and accomplishments occurred. And I loved hearing him talk about it all.
Russ’ father, Russ (they shared the same name, but he was not a junior) was an orphan who was taught copper roofing as a trade before aging out of the orphanage in Ohio where his mother had sent him and his siblings. From Ohio, he traveled to Pennsylvania and used his skill with copper in the batteries of the new “horseless carriages” that were all the rage. That work with electricity would start a multi-generational occupation in the electrical trade that continues in our family. My great grandfather eventually settled in the Southern California community of Compton (Yes, I know) and married the daughter of a doctor, Meme. My Grandfather was the second of three children and the first boy of two. His father taught him the electrical trade he himself had learned on his own. The older Russ owned a residential electrical business. And my grandfather, when he was old enough, would go along and help. On one such job at a bread factory, an ominous family tradition of sorts began. I don’t believe in curse’s. So, I won’t use that wording. He lost part of his right index finger when the blades that cut the loaf of bread before being slid into the packaging came loose and went flying. Everyone in the room ducked for cover. But, my grandfather’s hand was struck by an arrant blade when he put his hand on a table just as he was ducking under it. In later years, my mom lost part of her finger in a car door, I cut the tip of my left index finger off when I was in the Navy. And my nephew lost, but had reattached, the end of his thumb.
When my Grandfather was 19, he joined the Army. This was 1943. And World War II was well under way. But, before he was approved to join, they wanted to know if he could fire a gun. They gave him an M1 rifle and the first thing he did was try to use his middle finger on the trigger. To do this, he moved his nub of an index finger up the stock of the gun. He fired and the bolt of the M1 came back and struck the end of his finger. He told me that it hurt more than when it was cut off. After boot camp in Georgia, my he served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a construction foreman at first in the bombed out remains of London, helping to rebuild. And later in France and other parts of Western Europe. We know that his unit came across a concentration camp at one point. But, he didn’t like talking about it. He served in Europe after the official end of the war and didn’t leave until March 26, 1946. He received the WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal (even though he embarrassingly told me once that he struck an officer), and the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. And even though he was missing part of his index finger, he was still an expert marksman whth the dreaded M1 rifle.
After returning to Southern California, he married my Grandmother, Margaret Elaine Boese on June 15, 1947. They celebrated their 67th year of marriage before his passing. They had two children, my mom Janet. And my uncle, Larry. They had seven grandchildren, my cousins Steven and Jeff, myself, my sister Lori and my step sister Annette and step brothers Joe and Kenneth. There are eight great children so far. Andrew, Shannon, Abby, Luke, Cambria, Ezra, Madison and Ivan.
Grandpa worked as an electrician after the war. And retired as the Vice President of the large commercial electrical contractor Hoffman & Son at the age of 55. I have many memories of being at my grandparent’s house and seeing him arrive in the company El Camino after work. From what I know, he was a fair and innovative boss who always worked to find better and faster ways to get the job done. I remember hearing stories of his work and others he knew and being fascinated by the way they managed to get things done. These were the days before OSHA. And sometimes, safety was bent to a near breaking point to get the job done. He worked on everything from school clock systems to projects at large defense contractors Lockheed and Ball Aeorspace.
Grandpa was always a tinkerer. He was always repairing things and finding new ways of doing something that didn’t involve just buying a new replacement. I always looked on in a sense of awe as he worked. But, when I was a teenager, I came to regret his innovative way of looking at least once. When I was 12, my parent’s bought me a television for my room. But, when my grades faultered, instead of just taking the TV from it’s convenient spot next to my desk, Grandpa showed up and installed a keyed lock to the side of it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve recognized a similar way of looking at problems in my own life. I’ve taken apart laptops, clocks and other gadgets in a quest to find out how they work. And just like him, I’ve found new technology to be fascinating. Perhaps this is a genetic trait. We often speculate about this when we see a younger niece or nephew taking something apart. Even in my grandfather’s last days, while suffering from dementia and unable to feed himself, he would lean over the side of his wheelchair and try to take apart the alarm that was designed to sound if one of the patients would try to leave the building of his nursing home.
Grandpa always downplayed his unofficial title as father figure to me. He said once that I already had a father. But, my real father wasn’t around much. After my dad left when I was 5, my grandparents made sure our house didn’t fall into foreclosure. And it wasn’t too long after we moved to the desert community of Hemet, that my grandfather retired and at the suggestion of his doctor, they moved from smoggy Orange County to the dryer air of Hemet. My grandparents were always close enough to help with the occasional project or repair that needed to be done. Whether it was a broken light switch or building of a garage or kitchen, he was always there to chip in and make sure things were always done right. I have lots of fond memories of working side by side with him on my old VW Beetle when I was in high school. And as he got older, he would be the honorary foreman of any job we were working on as a family. As I looked through photos after his passing, I wasn’t surprised to see many pictures of him sweeping up if he wasn’t strong enough to lift pieces of wood anymore. He just didn’t like to sit on the side lines.
In a childhood that dealt with lots of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, Grandpa was always a positive light I could look up to when life had gotten me down. His glass was always half full.
I haven’t been down to his basement workshop yet. I suspect walking down there will bring lots of emotions to the forefront. Besides his work bench, there are lots of pieces of antique tech he saved over the years. I look foreword to going down there soon to explore one last time.
I will miss my grandpa. He was a positive light in my life. But, I know he will always be with me. He taught me so much. Not just how to fix a car or wire a circuit. But, in how to be positive role model and how to be a positive member of a close knit family. He was the family anchor. No. He was the family foreman. His legacy will live on with all of us. And for that, we are eternally grateful. Rest in Peace Grandpa.