Remembering The Unforgettable Arnold Moore

Rita Thurman Barnes wrote this appreciation of the late funeral director Arnold Moore which appeared in the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise on Sunday April 24th. The Arnold Moore Funeral Home played a significant role in the story I have been writing and she has given permission to post his  profile. Anyone who has watched the videos of the conversation between Chub and old Sheriff Wayman on this website might remember the name Arnold Moore.

I’ve been thinking about Arnold a lot lately. Thinking about him when I pass his lovely old business there on Johnstone at Adams Boulevard and thinking about how long I should have waited to write my memories of him after his passing. And I wrote the story and then lost it and had to write it again. I think Arnold would have gotten a good chuckle out of it because he liked to read my stories; he told me so.  I miss him.

I miss knowing he’s there. We all knew he wasn’t getting any younger but he was a literal institution unto himself in our hometown. Anyone who had lived here a good portion of their life had their own Arnold Moore memories and those of us whose family members grew up with him have very special memories indeed.

He knew everyone and he knew their comings and goings, their kith and kin and the joke around town as I was growing up was that he always knew the size casket you would need. The joke never really was funny and it certainly isn’t now but humor is one of the ways people deal with those who see to the end of the life needs and necessities that Arnold did for way over 50 years.

And he was a handsome man right to the end; strong and well-groomed and well-informed on top of it all. I always thought he looked a bit like Omar Sharif. He had that sturdy dependable look about him all the years I remember him and never seemed to really age up until about the time of Richard Kane’s funeral. That’s the first hint that I had that Arnold might indeed be mortal after all when he took a fall outside the church.

Knowing of him since I was just a kid, he always seemed old to me but then when you’re a kid everyone seems old. He finally got to that stage, as I grew up and older myself, when he just seemed ageless with his full head of beautifully coifed white hair and the uniform suit and tie with never a hint of lint anywhere to be seen.

I know there always have been other funeral homes in Bartlesville but when someone died and you got the news before the paper got to your house you always called to confirm if the service would be at Arnold Moore’s. I hesitate to guess how many funerals his business conducted throughout the years but it had to literally be thousands upon thousands.

And the money spent on laminating photos of all types that appeared in the newspaper had to have cost a fortune over time. Every time I was in the paper for any reason, eventually, along came a laminated copy of it and that goes back to my childhood days.  When my kids made the honor roll or earned a scout award or went with their class to chop down a Christmas tree, if it made it into the paper, Arnold laminated it. And it’s these little every day things about him and the services he provided the town which we all we took for granted.

Cathy Benz Sherran shared, When my mother died, we had many family members from out of town after the funeral. We made a buffet out of all the food and as the dishes piled up, Arnold located one of my mother’s aprons, tied it on, followed me into the kitchen and took over the dishwashing, all the while regaling me with intricate family relationships, weaving together families from Bartlesville, Nowata, Tulsa, Borger, Texas, and beyond. His memory for names and personal detail was encyclopedic!”

Rick Lee recalled so many stories of Arnold. He has known my family since time began. He buried my dad’s dad in 1955. He quit boxing, so he told, because my Grandpa Floyd hit him so fast and hard. He always called my mom ‘Pretty Lady.’ When I worked at Doenges I worked on most all his cars both personal and for the funeral home so much that when I attended funerals he always asked me if I wanted to drive. He could remember everyone’s name somehow and never failed to come look me up when he came in Doenges. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who paid such close attention to detail.

Joe Dillsaver commented He grew up with my uncle, Merle Ibach. Apparently he was raised by a single mother. According to Uncle Merle, Arnold had a wagon and when someone had a dog or cat die he would go pick it up and bury it. Homer Stanton, one of his morticians and one of my basketball coaches said he and Arnold’s handy man used to hide in the caskets so Arnold couldn’t find them.

Cindy Wilson Neidig said, What wonderful memories from so many. Arnold did both my grandparents funerals and Daddy’s last year. Arnold attended every funeral. He was at Daddy’s and then Arnold passed away just a couple of days after Daddy’s funeral.

And the neatest story I heard was from Sandy Olson Haberly who said that when she was a little girl, once in a while her family would go to the old Zesto for an ice cream treat and that, periodically, Arnold would be there “visiting” all the cars and would buy ice cream for everyone.

I guess there will always be people in our lives we will never forget and Arnold Moore, for Bartlesville, is one of those people. Tell me you don’t see his face in your mind’s eye every time you drive down Johnstone and stop at the Adams stoplight. I knew I wasn’t the only one.

Carpe Diem and thanks for everything, Arnold.

2011 Western Heritage Awards

This week’s blog which I normally post on Sunday is running late because I was out of town and have been tied up in meetings. Nonetheless I hope you will enjoy reading about the Golden Anniversary of the Western Heritage Awards in Oklahoma City which has direct bearing on my project.   This article also appeared in my weekly column in the  Bartlesville  Examiner-Enterprise.

Welcome back. … Bartlesville’s historical ties to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City are rich in a tradition that dates back to Kenneth“Boots” Adams who was one of the original founders of the museum and the early days of Phillips Petroleum Company which has always been a strong corporate supporter.

Today ConocoPhillips continues to play a lead role in the development of what most consider to be one of the finest western art and history museums in the world. This past weekend ConocoPhillips, along with Wrangler, was a major sponsor of the Golden Anniversary of the Western Heritage Awards.

Over two thousand people filled the place to rub shoulders with the likes of Ernest Bourgnine, Patrick Wayne, Stuart Whitman and the legendary Paramount producer A.C. Lyles during a busy and entertaining weekend.

Friday night kicked things off with the time honored “hanging of the hat” ceremony in memory of a recently deceased member of the Board of Directors and this year honored James P. Linn who was also the father of movie star and CSI: Miami actor Rex Linn. The ceremony was followed by the ever popular Jingle Jangle Mingle receptionwhich featured performances by Western Heritage Award winners and offered the opportunity for pictures and autographs with the many celebrities who were on hand.

Saturday started out with “Tales Behind the Film”, a five hour series of talks that was nothing short of spectacular as Bourgnine, Wayne and the other told the crowd stories of life in the movie business. Their experiences included the filming of movies like

The Comancheros,  From Here to Eternity, the T.V. series Cimarron and many other classics. A.C. Lyles in particular kept the audience on the edge of their seats as he talked about his friend, and the best man at his wedding, Ronald Reagan. As a producer he worked with stars like Jimmy Cagney, Steve McQueen, Allen Ladd, Lee Marvin and a young, and wild, John Wayne and his stories were topped only by the Awards Banquet that evening.

When singer Lynn Anderson opened the Awards Banquet singing the National Anthem, followed by the co-hosts, T.V. and movie greats Ed Harris and Rex Linn, everyone in the audience knew they were in for a treat. Michael Martin Murphy, Red Steagall and Don Edward all sang at various times throughout the evening and Patrick Wayne, Wyatt McCrea, Barry Corbin and Buck Taylor and others gave out this year’s awards. This black tie event is one of a kind and if you’re interested in seeing the photos check out photographer Joe Ownbey’s website after April 29th at Just use the password “cowboy” and go to the “Events” page.

And till next week I’ll see ya down the road…..

Coming Attractions

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma.  It was an amazing weekend, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, and I think I made some excellent contacts for my project. On Thursday I will be bringing you all the details and hopefully a few photos too.

Back to Ghost Ranch

After another busy week of meetings and phone calls about the project, I took a moment to look back to where it all started.

“On June 15, 2006 after giving his finger prints to the Social Security office in Helena, MT in order to insure that he would receive medical care, Chub stumbled in the office for another dialysis treatment.  He knew that he would almost certainly be captured and he was right.”

Three years later after hundreds of hours of interviews his story took shape in a place where magic has happened on more than one occasion. The following article ran in my weekly column in the Examiner Enterprise out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma about the trip during which the first thirty thousand words were written.

Ghost Ranch

This week I’m taking you to a place whose history includes cattle rustlers, ghosts and high stakes poker games along with atomic scientists, dinosaurs and the famous artist Georgia O’Keefe.  Red Dawn, The Gambler, City Slicker, Indiana Jones and Wyatt Earp are just a few of the movies filmed in the area. This spectacular place offers visitors unsurpassed scenery and wildlife that take center stage in life there. There is plenty of camping and adobe cabins for rent as well as a lodge and meeting facilities. The site is operated by the Presbyterian Church as an education and retreat center and is open to the public all year round. It’s off the beaten track, about two hours north of Santa Fe, New Mexico on US Highway 84 between markers 224 and 225. You follow a long dirt road that dead ends in a canyon and you have arrived. The place is called Ghost Ranch and here is some of its history:

Dinosaurs roamed the area in prehistoric times and paleontologists have found the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world in this area.

In 1730 the Spanish settled there only to be killed by Comanche in 1747.

U.S. soldiers established a military outpost in Abiquiu eight mils south of Ghost Ranch in 1846 and in 1892 the Archuleta brothers built the first house on the property. The brothers and their gang used the canyon to hide stolen cattle until 1903 when local ranchers had finally had their fill and hung most of them.

1933 Arthur Pack, an editor for an East Coast magazine, bought Ghost Ranch after visiting the area for a story. Pack built a dude ranch for the rich and famous and soon many celebrities were regular guests, including Charles and Anne Lindbergh, the Johnson family of Johnson & Johnson and the person who would show the world the astounding beauty of the area, Georgia O’Keefe.

In 1941 Ghost Ranch became part of history again when scientists from Los Alamos who were working on the Manhattan Project started coming to the ranch for rest and relaxation. For security reasons during this period the ranch was placed off-limits for the everyday visitor until 1947.

In 1955 Arthur and Phoebe Pack donated Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in hopes that the church would make good use of this magical and mystical place. I would say they have succeeded. Hiking, horseback riding, stargazing and exploring the past are just a few of the activities that are available to visitors. But don’t bring your cell phone or your ATM card- they don’t work in this remote area that feels like a step back in time.

Over the years thousands of kids have come to church retreats here and had their horizons expanded by the experience. Peace Corps members and National Guard troops have been trained at the ranch and Georgia O’Keefe even had her ashes scattered over the property when she died in 1986. The Packs would be very happy.

Ghost Ranch is a great place to visit and the 16 hour drive out there is worth every minute too. For more information call (505) 685-4333 or visit


The Bear

This week I’ve spoken to several people in the publishing industry and also to a film maker who is interested in producing a documentary based on the book.  All of it is very exciting….

The following excerpt from the manuscript jumps ahead to Chub’s relationship with his first girlfriend in Montana and also mentions Hobo, a horse he had broken and trained while he was working for Oklahoma rancher Pat Scudder. When he jumped bond in 1990 he took Hobo with him, first to Mexico and then to Montana.  During my visit to Alder, Montana I documented this section of the book through interviews with Sherri and Chub’s other friends there, all of whom had no idea who he really was.

“In his free time Chub and Sherri frequently went out riding and hunting in the mountains together. On one occasion they made camp after a long day and were out scouting for camp meat on horseback when Chub spotted fresh elk droppings. He had handed Sherri the reins to Hobo and walked just a few feet when he heard a limb break in the brush straight in front of him. Sherri’s horse started to paw the ground and he shouted for her to jump on Hobo as he unsnapped his 44 magnum off his hip. Hobo had seen it all before- he had been on several bear hunts and Chub had worked his horse around the smell of bears often tying pieces of bear skin on his saddle. Sherri’s horse was reacting like most horses would- the smell of the bear was making him go nuts. Sherri couldn’t hold him and breaking away; he turned and ran back in the direction they had come from. Chub had briefly turned his attention toward Sherri and the runaway horse- when he turned back toward the brush he found a large grizzly bear staring him in the eye from no more than fifty feet away with the bloody leg of an elk held firmly in his mouth. With his pistol out Chub tried to move slowly backwards to Sherri who held Hobo steady and had begun to pull at the ties that held his rifle in the saddle scabbard. Chub’s hopes of getting to his rifle were short lived as the bear dropped his kill and charged. His first two shots did nothing to slow the charge but he kept his aim steady. The third and fourth shots hit something solid; the bear moaned and turned in full retreat. After a couple of more shoots to the bear’s behind Chub knew he could safely check on Sherri and retrieve their runaway horse. He was in no hurry to chase after a wounded bear and he knew it wouldn’t get far. After catching her red roan he followed the blood trail to the spot where the bear had died. It was a massive grizzly, one of the biggest he had ever seen. He would gut and skin this one, hauling it back to Sherri’s where he could properly tan the hide as a gift for his daughter.”