Remembering Willard Moore

By Staff
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Willard Moore, 1916-2011
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Willard Moore operating the 1916 Erie steam shovel one more time in July 2010.

I don’t remember the exact year I first met Willard Moore. I do remember it was at the YesterYear in Motion show in Jamestown, N.C. Everybody was busy “doing a show,” and if anybody had a question, the answer was, “ask Willard.” I received that answer when I asked a question and I got to meet Willard for an answer.

A few months later, I was setting up a room for dinner while he talked machines with a man sitting at one of the tables. For what I understood of the conversation, he may as well been speaking a foreign language. That’s what a lot of his machine talk was to me. A few minutes later at meal time, when the president of the Jamestown-Union Hill Lions Club called on their Chaplain, Lion Willard Moore, to pray, I knew I had met a Machine Man with a big heart. He prayed for the sick. He prayed for our soldiers. He thanked God for life and for the hands that prepared the food.

Through the years I got to know Willard better. Willard was a very complex man, a very busy man. He was married to his soulmate Alean, and the gleam in his eyes brightened when he talked about her, just like when he talked about machines. He was a family man. He was a member of local and national chapters of the Association for Facilities Engineers, with certified plant engineer status. He was a licensed pilot; a member of his church for almost as many years as I had been born, honored as Lifetime Deacon; a Scout Master; a Sunday School teacher;  founding member of the Jamestown-Union Hill Lions Club where he was a Jack Stickley Fellow and Melvin Jones Fellow; and he was also was Master Mason. A lot of what I learned about him, I learned from other people. He did not talk a lot about himself. But he would talk about his machines.

If an engine was running, he liked to listen. If an engine was not running, then it became his project. Years ago he and his brother built their first airplane from a kit they ordered. Robert crashed it on a trial run. One of his many projects he was so proud of was a 1916 Erie steam shovel project. After restoring it and getting it to run, he operated it for 41 years at the Southwest Old Threshers’ Reunion in Denton, N.C. He finally retired from this project last year. He was given a lifetime achievement award by Plant Services Magazine and by

Regardless of where he was or what he was doing, his mind was always racing ahead, clicking, figuring out how to solve a mechanical problem or salvage an old engine that others left in a junk heap.

“Mr. Fix-it’s” last project excited him. He was trying to restore a 1904 3 HP hopper-cooled Fairmont railroad motorcar engine, one of only four that still exist. He did not get to finish it.

Several years ago, Willard asked me if I would write an article for Gas Engine Magazine about YesterYear in Motion. The underline in the story was, “30 years ago, one man opened his collection to the public. What evolved is now an annual event.” And every year since then on the fourth Saturday in September at Willard Moore’s Farm, the Jamestown-Union Lions Club has sponsored YesterYear in Motion.

This will be our first year of YesterYear in Motion without Willard Moore. I’m sure at least 100 times we will say, “If Willard was here, it’d be running by now.” But the show will go on.

I don’t know how many things in Heaven operate off a motor, but they will all operate better now. “Mr. Fix-it” will make sure of that.

Everyone is remembered in different ways for different things. I remember Willard for his strong faith in God, his love for his wife and family, his work ethic, his mechanical genius, his skills and his positive attitude. Every time anyone asked, “How are you today?” his reply was the same: “I’m just right.”

Editor’s note: If you’d like to memorialize someone who was involved in the antique gas engine hobby, please send photos and a written memorial to Associate Editor Christian Williams at

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