Archdeacon: ‘He loved his family so much’

The Moran family, from left: Anne, Melissa, Leanne and Luke in the arms of their dad, Chris Newman, John Moran and Melinda Moran Newman . CONTRIBUTED
The Moran family, from left: Anne, Melissa, Leanne and Luke in the arms of their dad, Chris Newman, John Moran and Melinda Moran Newman . CONTRIBUTED

Once-prominent area coach John Moran was enjoying a good life before it was seized from him by COVID-19

The Big Irishman was struggling.

John Moran – the former Bowling Green football player, West Carrollton High School baseball and football coach and patriarch of one of this area’s most sports-loving families – was in the COVID unit at Sycamore Medical Center in Miamisburg early last October.

Pandemic protocols prevented his family from being at his side as he struggled to breathe with what doctors diagnosed as COVID pneumonia.

Anne – once his high school sweetheart, now his wife of 54 years – was back in their Washington Township condo trying to come to grips with her husband’s rapidly-spiraling condition.

Although Anne said their family had consciously adhered to safety measures and she has no idea how they came in contact with the virus, both she and John were diagnosed with COVID-19 in late September.

But while she was able to recover at home, her 76-year-old husband was hit much harder.

He’d had some recent health issues and there had been heart attack in the late 1990s and that, Anne said, helped make him “a typical poster person for issues with COVID…And then it just took him.”

During his first couple of days in the hospital, he and his family connected via phone calls.

“My husband (Chris) and I talked to him and he sounded like the same old dad,” said daughter Melinda “Mindy” Newman. “But Dad was in there and he knew what was going on. He just didn’t want to worry us and let us know how sick he was.

“Then they put him on a BiPAP (breathing) machine and we communicated a few times by text, but his condition deteriorated quickly.”

Some nine days after entering Sycamore, he was put on a ventilator.

“The next day I got a phone call and they told me John wasn’t doing well,” Anne said as her emotions began to surface. “They said, ‘It’s now in his kidneys and he’s really sliding.’

“They asked me if I knew what Comfort Care (hospice, among other things) was and I had a feeling I did. They mentioned his DNR (Do Not Resuscitate.)

“This was all being done over the phone with people I didn’t really know. They gave him great care at Sycamore, but I still wondered if I was doing the right thing.

“I was talking to a doctor in ICU and finally I said, ‘You know, this really sucks. I’ve been married 54 years, but I can’t even say goodbye.

“And that’s when he said, ‘Wait a minute…’”

She said the doctor met with a nurse on duty who then got on the phone and said two people could come in for few minutes before the end of the (nurse’s) shift:

“I said, ‘Well, that sucks, too. I have three.’”

A family get together three years ago at Outback steak house: Melissa, Anne, John, Melinda. CONTRIBUTED
A family get together three years ago at Outback steak house: Melissa, Anne, John, Melinda. CONTRIBUTED

An agreement was made, but she and her two daughters had to be there immediately. That meant eldest daughter Melissa had to quickly leave her job as the aquatics director at the Washington Township Recreation Center and Mindy would leave her two small children – second grader Leanne and kindergartener Luke – with husband Chris.

The limitation on the final goodbye, especially was tough for Chris, who, like John, was a football man.

After serving as an intern to Jim Tressel at Ohio State and a grad assistant at the University of Cincinnati, he worked as a high school assistant at Springfield North, Fairmont and Centerville and was the head coach at West Carrollton High for two years.

Now he supervises the middle school athletic department of Centerville schools.

John was his mentor and hero and before Mindy left, he gave her a special message to relay to him.

Once they went into the COVID unit at Sycamore, the scene was surreal, Mindy said:

“We wore N-95 masks and were all suited up in like surgical gear. We had on goggles.”

“Our hair and feet were covered,” Anne said. “We looked like space people.”

John was in a paralytic state and the fragile image didn’t match the Gibraltar of a man that he was.

“He was just a perfect dad, the best you could ask for,” Melissa said. “And he was a great Irishman.”

“He was always true to who he was,” Anne remembered. “He was very honest.”

“He wasn’t a man of many words, but when he meant it, we honored it,” Mindy said. “And he always had a joke.”

He loved sports, both as a participant – he was an amateur golfer of note – and as a fan. The Morans have had Cincinnati Bengals season tickets since 1971 and also are big followers of the Cincinnati Reds, Ohio State football and BGSU.

“Most of all, John loved his family,” Anne said.

John Moran was a football star at Port Clinton High in early 1960s. He went on to play football at Bowling Green State University and then coach at West Carrollton High. CONTRIBUTED
John Moran was a football star at Port Clinton High in early 1960s. He went on to play football at Bowling Green State University and then coach at West Carrollton High. CONTRIBUTED

For the final goodbye, Anne and her daughters were given just five minutes. They were not allowed to touch him, so each tried to pull some words through their sadness.

Mindy said once she managed to gain her composure, she delivered her husband’s message:

“Chris was devastated, he was just a mess, but he was firm on this. He said I should tell Big John: ‘I got your girls! And I’ll take care of the kids, too!’

“Then I said, ‘We’ll be OK, Dad. And you’re OK, too. Give your heart a rest. You’ve been fighting so hard. Go in peace.’”

“We want to think he heard us,” Melissa said.

And less than 24 hours later – on Oct. 13 – John Moran passed away.

The loss left the family reeling and, due to the pandemic, they opted against a typical funeral. Instead, they hope to have celebration of his life this summer.

In the meantime, Melissa has found some respite in helping others.

When the initial vaccine rollout began, many people – especially senior citizens – found signing up to be a confusing, sometimes nearly impossible feat. But she was determined to demystify the process, one person at a time.

“I started off just trying to get my mom registered,” she said. “Then it was my aunt and uncle in Port Clinton and pretty soon it became, not an obsession, but a challenge. I wanted to help as many people as I could.”

Working night and day on her own away from her job, she helped family, friends, relatives of swimmers she’d come in contact with and often complete strangers.

At times, she teamed with Denise Jenks, who’d been her fourth-grade teacher and remains a good friend of Anne.

Melissa assisted people throughout Ohio, in Chicago and Florida, wherever someone was in need. To date she’s helped over 190 people sign up and get their vaccinations.

“She’s worked her tail end off to make it safe for people,” Mindy said. “And it’s a perfect way to honor our dad.”

Even though COVID-19 has claimed over 545,000 lives in the United States – and nearly 18,500 in Ohio – the Pew Research Center found nearly 40 percent of Americans (including two million Ohioans) say they won’t take the vaccine.

“I know some people have their beliefs and there are naysayers,” Melissa said. “But once you see someone you love on a vent and you’ve got five minutes to say goodbye…”

Her voice began to break, but with a pause, she caught herself:

“Now, if I have the opportunity to get you the vaccine, I will because I don’t want your family to go through what ours has.”

John and Anne became high school sweethearts at Port Clinton High. CONTRIBUTED
John and Anne became high school sweethearts at Port Clinton High. CONTRIBUTED

‘Love at first sight’

Anne Kerchner was a junior at Port Clinton High when 17-year-old John Moran moved in from the Dunkirk, N.Y. area and joined her class.

“It was love at first sight, especially for my dad,” Melissa said.

Anne and John both liked sports – he became a tight end and defensive lineman on the football team – and they liked music and by senior year they were dating. They went to Homecoming and the Prom and after high school Anne planned to go to Bowling Green to become a teacher.

“John was thinking he might sign up for the service, but my dad, he was an attorney in Sandusky, he really talked to him about going to college,” she said. “He told John he needed to further his education. And so he came to Bowling Green, too.”

She said he was on a football scholarship until a knee injury cut short his career. But a switch of majors – from business to physical education – was “right up his alley.”

The couple wed in 1966 and Anne taught four years in Toledo. Once John finished his schooling, he taught two years in Sylvania and then they moved to West Carrollton in 1970.

John became the Pirates head baseball coach and the defensive coordinator with the football team. Anne would end up teaching in several West Carrolton schools – her specialty was second grade – and in 1975 she became West Carrollton High’s first reserve volleyball coach.

In 1996, the Alliance of Education honored her as one of the county’s top 10 teachers.

John Moran was the head baseball coach at West Carrollton High in the early 1970s. CONTRIBUTED
John Moran was the head baseball coach at West Carrollton High in the early 1970s. CONTRIBUTED

As for the couple’s two daughters – Melissa is now 48 and Mindy is 44 – they too developed a love of sports. Melissa said she and her mom were regulars at the annual Football 101 clinics for women put on by former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis at Paul Brown Stadium.

And, of course, Mindy married a football coach.

The couple’s two children – Leanne is eight and Luke is six – called John “Grampy.”

And although he had had recent health issues, life was good for him.

Last March, he and Anne were taking their annual vacation in Fort Myers, Fla, when Melissa and Mindy contacted them.

“They said, ‘We’re shutting down up here,’” Anne recalled. “They said the Centerville schools were shutting down and so was the rec center.

“We were at a place with a pool and I remember saying, ‘We’re not seeing that much of a change at all.’ But then all of sudden the public beaches closed and I went to a Publix grocery store and there were just two loaves of bread on some humungous, three-tiered shelves.

“My sister who lives on Lake Erie was down there too and she said, ‘We’re packing up and going back home.’”

Eight days later Anne and John decided to come home, too,

“It was scary,” Anne said. “I thought, ‘Our doctors and everybody are at home. If one of us gets sick, what are we going do?’”

‘Driven’ to help

Not only did Melissa work at navigating the various sites to find those much-coveted time slots for seniors wanting vaccinations, but she also had to prep some of them for the rigors of the competition.

“I had my mom’s girlfriends practicing with the signups beforehand,” she laughed. “I had to stress that you can’t spend a lot of time reading the questions and answering because if you take too long, somebody will sign into that spot ahead of you.”

And once she learned the idiosyncrasies of some sites – she said that Kroger posted its openings in the middle of the night – Melissa was, as her mom put it, “driven.”

She’d scour registration sites past midnight and sometimes set her alarm for 3:30 a.m. to get a jump on those early postings.

And while she has helped a lot of people, that doesn’t mean the loss of her dad gets much easier.

Anne agreed: “It’s been rough. I went right from college to marriage. We were together 54 years. That’s all you know.”

The family -- Melinda, Melissa, Anne and John -- at Paul Brown Stadium for a Bengals game. CONTRIBUTED
The family -- Melinda, Melissa, Anne and John -- at Paul Brown Stadium for a Bengals game. CONTRIBUTED

Mindy was having an especially tough go of it one day, when she said her young daughter Leanne suddenly goes: “Ring…Ring.”

“I said, ‘What’s that?’

“And she said, ‘It’s Grampy on the phone. I’m letting him know. I talk to him sometimes.’

“She told me right before Grampy passed, he had given her that imaginary cell phone and told her: ‘If you need to talk to me or check in, use it.’

“God love her! She’s just such a kind-hearted kid.

“It made my husband and I think we’re raising some good kids. And I think those are lessons passed down from Chris’ parents and from my parents.

“And those are lessons that especially go back to my dad. He did everything he could for us. He loved his family so much.”

The Big Irishman never struggled with that.

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