Archdeacon: Remembering a Miami Valley treasure

Edgar Moorman honored at home plate of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. CONTRIBUTED
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Edgar Moorman honored at home plate of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. CONTRIBUTED

A Miami Valley treasure will be buried today.

Edgar Moorman – the 101-year-old patriarch of five generations of family, a World War II veteran who survived the perils of the South Pacific and a much beloved fan of all Dayton Flyers sports teams, as well as the Cincinnati Reds, Dayton Dragons, former Dayton hockey teams and the finally resurgent Cleveland Browns – died Feb. 26 at the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center.

His funeral mass will be held this morning at 10 at Holy Trinity Church downtown and his burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery.

That’s good for him. Once all the final ceremonies are over and he’s settled into heaven, he’ll still have time to catch the Flyers 3:30 pm game against Rhode Island in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Richmond.

The game’s televised on the NBC Sports Network, but maybe up there you don’t need cable – or WHIO radio – to sate your hoops’ passion.

Actually, in recent years, Moorman has experienced some heaven-on-earth moments with the teams he loved.

He was cheered by a sellout crowd at UD Arena when his image – decked out in Flyers’ gear as he sat in his wheelchair – appeared on the jumbo video boards at a game a couple of seasons back.

A few years ago the Reds honored him at home plate before a game at Great American Ball Park.

The Dayton Dragons brought him and his family onto the field at a game and when his World War II service was mentioned, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

But some of the moments he relished the most came at UD volleyball games where he always was given a place of honor. His son Pat would wheel him into the Frericks Center, right up to the edge of the court, near the net.

“One by one all the girls on the team would come by before the game and give him a high five,” Pat remembered Wednesday. “A couple of times when there was a snafu with his health and he wouldn’t be there, the players and coaches would come over and say, ‘Pat, where’s your dad?’”

Now 57 and the youngest of Edgar and wife Peggy’s 12 kids, Pat was the other half of the Moorman team, albeit he was more like a band’s roadie and his dad was the center stage headliner.

Pat served as his dad’s driver when they went to sporting events, church or bingo halls.

“It didn’t matter to me what we were doing, it was just the fact of being around him,” Pat said.

But that’s often been the case.

He said his dad served as the scorekeeper at his softball games for nearly 30 years.

He told of how they once were driving down South Main Street, past the old fairgrounds, when his dad began talking about watching Flyers games at the Coliseum before following them to the UD Fieldhouse and then UD Arena.

He said his dad also recalled how, when he as a Boy Scout, he worked as an usher each Thanksgiving Day for the annual Steele High vs. Stivers football game – the Turkey Bowl as it was known – which was the hottest ticket in town.

“He said the game would draw 10,000 people,” Pat said.

When Moorman took Peggy Shay on their first date, he brought her to a Dayton Indians minor league baseball game at Hudson Field on W. Third Street.

Pat never said if his mom was a baseball fan, but she seemed to like her new beau’s pitch.

“They got married and had 12 kids in 16 years,” he said.

When Moorman died – 22 years after Peggy – his family tree had extended to 23 grandchildren, 38 great grandkids and four great, great grandchildren. He is survived by daughters Paula (and her husband Bob), Stephanie (Jim), Barbara, Maria (Rick) and Amy, and sons Tom (Judy), Dan, Chris, Jody and Pat.

Edgar Moorman with son, Pat. CONTRIBUTED
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Edgar Moorman with son, Pat. CONTRIBUTED

Darke County roots

Moorman’s own upbringing was far different than what he and Peggy put together for their kids.

Pat said he was raised on a farm outside Frenchtown, the small crossroads just northwest of Versailles in Darke County.

His mother died when he was very small and his dad – strapped to survive with “three kids under the age of five,” Pat said – sent a daughter to live with an aunt while Ed and his brother went to the St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Dayton.

“That’s what they did back then and actually Dad told me it was great,” Pat said. “He got an education, meals, disciple and he had a lot of kids to play with every day.”

He lived there until he was 14.

After he got out of high school, Moorman spent two years with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a voluntary public relief program where one of his assignments was fighting forest fires in Oregon.

He was drafted into the Army in January of 1941 and eventually ended up in the South Pacific as a radio operator.

He was part of the Ohio National Guard’s 37th Buckeye Division, which was engaged in continuous combat for nearly 600 days. It lost 1,891 soldiers and seven of its men earned the Medal of Honor.

In 2005, Moorman told a Stivers High student interviewer about some of his experiences in the Solomon Islands – Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville – as well as Manila and Luzon in the Philippines,

He told of finding Japanese soldiers hidden in caves and of constant bombardment they faced at Guadalcanal.

When he finally returned home, he said he was put on 10 percent disability for “shell shock.”

He said he didn’t let it deter him. He met Peggy when he got a job at Borden’s Dairy, where he worked 38 years as a milkman.

He was proud of his WWII service and before he died he was the oldest member of the Dayton chapter of Disabled Veterans (DAV) and the second oldest member of the Ohio 37th Buckeye Division.

“Dad took great pride in representing his generation for those no longer around,” Pat said.

And yet, Moorman was no fan of war.

As he told the Stivers’ interviewer: “I saw a lot of death and destruction. It’s something that had to be, but I couldn’t stomach it too well.”

Edgar Moorman with the Dayton Bombers. CONTRIBUTED
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Edgar Moorman with the Dayton Bombers. CONTRIBUTED

Lover of life

Those experiences as a young man may have had something to do with his outlook later.

“He knew how to embrace the small things in life,” Pat said. “I think Dad should be remembered as just a humble, hardworking farm boy from Darke County who loved his family, his community and his country.

“He was especially proud of his farm roots and it showed.”

He loved to garden and he loved animals, so much so that Pat recently helped arrange a special treat for him at the VA Center, here he’d lived in recent years and had been confined during the COVID-19 pandemic the past year.

He was isolated and for a good while he couldn’t have visitors. Then in early December Pat said his dad was diagnosed with COVID, although he didn’t show most of the symptoms.

“It was hard for all those people there to be cut off from everybody,” he said. “People of that generation deserve better. They need to be able to see family.” He said his sisters got a couple of 15-minute outdoor visits with their dad and there were some window visits.

When an equestrian team showed up at the VA, Pat said he asked them a favor: “‘Would you mind going around to the nursing home? My dad might be looking out the window.’ And next thing you know they’re right up next to the glass and he loved it.”

As Moorman’s heath faded, his family could see him in two-person shifts.

“I was able to play music for him and hold his hand his last three nights,” Pat said. “He liked old time music, like Glen Miller and also The White Cliffs of Dover from World War II. That was the favorite song he asked for.

“He was surrounded by our family at the end. What more can you ask for? We were blessed to have him for a long life.”

With that, Pat’s voice suddenly began to waver and soften:

“But I’ll tell you, we’re certainly going to miss him a lot.”