SIDNEY — David Moore, late of Sidney, used to say he had a thousand friends.
“Nobody has a thousand friends, Dad,” responded his son, Jeremy, of Fort Loramie. But his father was probably closer to right than wrong.
More than 400 of them attended a party at Vandemark Farms, Sept. 25, to say, “Farewell,” to their coworker, fishing buddy, bowling buddy, neighbor, fellow churchman, hunting buddy and pal. And Moore got to say goodbye to them. Then he quietly and peacefully died of complications from liver cancer exactly 48 hours after the party ended.
From the start, it was designed to be a farewell party.
“He was very clear about that,” said his wife, Rose, Wednesday.
Moore grew up with five brothers and sisters on the land that became Vandemark Farms, which is now owned by his brother, Dwight. He and Rose had been together for 22 years, married for 18.
In 2009, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota told him he had giant cell arteritis, an infection in his arteries, and an hereditary disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which affects the liver and the lungs.
“In 2013, he started filling up with fluids. It was cirrhosis of the liver, caused by the alpha-1,” Rose said. He was given two to three years to live.
The liver cancer wasn’t found until Aug. 31 of this year. David was offered chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but was told that it probably wouldn’t help him much.
“He wanted quality over quantity,” Rose said. “He was tired and didn’t want any treatment. We came home and he started talking about a farewell party.” A check with Dwight showed that Sept. 25 was open at the event venue. That was the day after David’s 62nd birthday, the perfect time to see his family and friends one last time.
“We didn’t have time to send invitations, so it was just word of mouth and Facebook,” Rose said. The party was announced at their church, Connection Point Church of God, too.
Neither David nor Rose was prepared for the outpouring of friendship the event elicited.
“It was like ‘Field of Dreams,’ that movie, where the cars just keep coming and coming,” Rose said.
David sat in a comfortable chair and for the next six hours, greeted everyone individually. He smiled through the whole night. Sometimes guests had to wait in line to speak with him. When a couple of women couldn’t wait, they patted his shoulder and said, “We’ll stop by tomorrow.”
“I don’t think I’ll be here tomorrow,” he answered. Others didn’t know what to say to him.
“People came up and said, ‘How are you doing?’ He leaned over to a friend and said, ‘Do they know I’m dying?’” his sister, Debbie White, of Durant, Oklahoma, recounted.
David did not have an easy time during his long illness. A custodian for the Sidney City Schools, he took a disability retirement in 2012. The disease and its limitations created some mental issues for him. But, Rose said, his friends stuck with him throughout the ordeal. He wanted to say something special to his party guests, so he asked Dick Vondenhuevel, of Sidney, to write a short speech for him. The two men had become close when Vondenhuevel visited the couple to shoe Rose’s horse.
“Dave was a big guy and I’m a pretty big guy,” the shoer said. As Vondenhuevel started to shake David’s hand, “he gave me a big bear hug. He said, ‘Big guys can hug, too.’ I’ve used that so many times.
“I told him I didn’t want to (write the speech),” Vondenhuevel said. But, at a race track several days later, the thoughts came and he wrote it out in about five minutes’ time on the back of a race card. David said it was exactly what he wanted to tell people.
“Everything just fell into place,” Vondenhuevel said. “I think it was him writing the letter and me just putting it down, along with God’s help.”
“Well, everybody you know what’s going on. Life is short, isn’t it?” David read. “… As we look back, it is not the money we’ve made or the material things we have in life that matter. What really matters are the people we have touched or the people who have touched our lives. I thank God for all of my family and friends whom I have shared all the good times and the bad with, that will never be forgotten … We would have all liked to be better in this life, but since we have a forgiving God, all is fine and I am thankful for all my family and friends who have shared my journey through life with me and this special day. May God bless you all.”
Pastor Alan Leach, of Sidney, agrees with Rose and White that David was holding on just for the party.
“It was a time for David to share what he wanted to say to people, individually and corporately, and also a chance for them to say what they wanted to him before he passed. Once it was over, it was his time to go,” Leach said.
Remembering the party has made his death easier for Rose to take.
“I think what’s so peaceful about it all is that David knew what he wanted and it happened,” she said. “It was hard, but I knew he was tired of being sick. We had talked about his wishes and I just keep thinking about the party. It was awesome. People just kept coming and coming.”
White arrived in Sidney the day after the party, when David was already starting to slip away.
“I said, ‘David, your favorite sister is here,’ White recounted. “‘You here?’ he said. ‘Yes, I’m here. I love you’ ‘I know.’ That’s what he always said to me when we were growing up. We were just a year apart, so we were really close.” Their birthdays are both in September.
“He called me for my birthday and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. It was hard. I knew it was probably the last time I’d hear that. But it’s a special memory,” she added.
David died at 11 p.m., Sept. 27, as a rare blood moon rose in the sky and an infrequent eclipse slid silently across its face.
“Even the day he died was unique,” Rose said. His body was cremated.
A memorial service will be Saturday, Oct. 10, at 3 p.m. at Connection Point Church of God, 1510 Campbell Road. The family will greet friends there from 1 p.m. until the hour of service.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.