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.

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