By CASEY CHAFFIN
Peggy and Jerry Moore oversee the Rickman Community Garden.
They serve as ushers at the Elsinore Theater.
They also sit on the board of Keizer United. Well, Jerry does. Peggy supervises, though.
Prior to some health issues—these kinds of things happen once you begin measuring your life in decades—they picked crops at Salem Harvest, served lunch and dinner at the Salvation Army, worked with Marion Polk Food Share. They did things separately, too. Jerry gave fork lift lessons to workers trying to become certified operators at Marion Polk Food Share, Peggy taught angling with Fish and Wildlife.
To put it simply, Peggy and Jerry Moore are volunteers.
“I don’t want to use the word servant, but they are humble servants—they’re always here to serve,” said Meredith Mooney, chair of Keizer United. Mooney has worked with the Moores through Keizer United for two years. “They won’t even tell us, they’ll just go out and find amazing things” for the organizations Keizer United partners with, whether that’s in-kind donations of toiletries for the McNary Kloset or monetary donations to build a fence around the Rickman Community Garden. They knock on doors until they get what they came looking for.
It’s what they do.
“There’s a lot of places that do a lot of good, and we’d like to support them, but financially we’re not able to support them the way we’d like to, so we donate our time and our labor, maybe our expertise like gardening,” Peggy said. “So that way, we give away hour-wise a lot more than we could give money-wise.”
The Moores weren’t always volunteers. Jerry owned and worked in underground utilities for 25 years and worked for Drakes Crossing Nursery for 20 years. Peggy was a waitress. Their schedules were flexible enough for spontaneous car trips to Washington, but they had other priorities. Kids, work, relationship, the usual.
Then they retired.
“Once you retire, you got to find something to do. If you don’t, you’ll go stir-crazy,” Jerry said. “So [Peggy] said, ‘Well let’s go down to the Salvation Army.’ Then we went to other things they had, and then we went to the Food Share.” And it just spiraled out of control from there. In a good way, of course.
The Moores weren’t always The Moores. They knew each other for two decades decades prior to tying the knot, when Peggy was 50 and Jerry was 56.
What took them so long?
“I was not the marrying type,” Peggy said. “I was very independent and very self-sufficient.”
So what changed?
“He kept pursuing me and I got to thinking, one of these days I’m not going to have anybody to sit and have dinner with, it might be a little lonely,” Peggy said. In this weakened state of mind, she found herself with Jerry at the Lancaster Mall.
“Let’s go to the jewelry store,” he said.
She was defiant. “What for? I don’t wear jewelry.”
But so was he. “Either pick out a ring or we’re done.”
“So I picked out a ring,” Peggy said.
22 years later, the Moores are both in their 70s, and they finish each other’s sentences and squabble about details in the affectionate way only two people who have known each other too well for too long can.
A good example comes when Peggy starts to tell the story of her surgery and recovery.
“I had open-heart surgery. You can see my scar,” she says, gesturing to her chest. “They tried to cut my throat, do you see how high it went?” She chuckles.
Jerry interjects: “She had six bypasses.”
“No, it was five,” she corrects him. “It was only five.”
Then she moves on.
“I took the first year and recovered, and then the last couple months of that year, I thought I had to do something to celebrate. I don’t want jewelry, I don’t want to go out to dinner. What can I do?”
Jerry picks up the thread. “So I took her down to McNary, and we went around that track,” Jerry says.
Peggy sighs, humor mingling with exasperation. “We. There’s that we again.”
“I was with you a lot of those times,” Jerry returns.
“Sitting on the bleachers,” she says, getting in the last dig before continuing.
“So I started going at my little pace around. Then I thought I’m going to do a 5K, that’ll be my celebration. And I found a 5K.”
But that wasn’t enough of a celebration. In 2013, the year after her recovery, she completed a 5K every month for twelve months. Because why not?
“Don’t think about how old you are in numbers,” she said.
Peggy has another piece of life advice for you.
“Every five years, look back and see the things you’ve done and accomplished,” she said. Life runs in stages, and it’s important to see where you’ve been, so you know where you want to go. Travel has been one of those things for Peggy, staying healthy has been one of those things for both of them. In addition to Peggy’s heart surgery, Jerry was hospitalized for several serious health issues. During one stint in the hospital, he lost about 90 pounds. Peggy nursed him back to health. That was three years ago.
Now, they continue to do what they do best: volunteer. It’s important to them, because people are important to them.
“You never know who you’re going to touch, or where the person you’ve touched is going to go,” Peggy said.
One instance of touching people’s lives Jerry cites is their work in the community garden, where they installed special, raised planter boxes for gardeners who couldn’t maneuver in the dirt as well as they used to.
“When we made those high-rise boxes for those two elderly ladies, you should’ve seen the expressions on their faces,” Jerry said. “They just hugged her and wouldn’t let go.”
Peggy nods. “I promised them I’d get it done.”
And she did. They both did. Because that’s how the Moores work: as a team. And while
they’ll tease each other when asked the question of what makes their life together work, you can see the truth in the way they interact with each other.
At the end of the day, they’re happy.
“We haven’t had a lot of money, but we’ve had a good life,” Jerry said.