Sumner K. Moore Eulogy

By Sumner’s son, Peter


Sumner Kittelle Moore’s was a life of duty, dedication, fortitude and faith.  He was born at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on April 24, 1926 into an old Navy family.  The Moores and Johnses founded Decatur, Illinois in the early 1800 and the Kittelles, or von Ketels, emigrated from the Isle of Rugen off Saxony through Amsterdam and settled the Hudson River Valley, surviving Huron massacres in the French & Indian wars.  So Dad was both Anglo, & Saxon.


There is something to be said for the old saw about not having more than a two-year gap between your first two children, especially if they’re boys.  For Charles Kittelle, called Tim (now, how many nicknames are there for Charles.  Tim is not among them?), apparently did not take that kindly to his younger brother.   Yet Sumner was incredibly kind to his brother Johnes Kittelle, called Jay, who was five years his junior.  My Dad would put on endless shows for Jay, where the evil Mountainmen led by the wise & wily ancient bear, Teddie, always defeated the hapless residents of Beebeetown, led by Raggedy Ann cousins Percy & Uncle Clem.  My grandmother’s dearest friends from growing up in DC adored Sumner, who unlike his brothers, never had a nickname.  They picked up the name the housekeeper gave him; unable to get the name Sumner, she called him Sambo.


Growing up in seaside posts such as Coronado, Newport & Long Beach, the Moore boys were all bright, creative and artistically talented.  From life before TV & X-Boxes we still have the wonderful woodcarvings of a ball & chain, figures of boxing kangaroos, blackjack wielding robbers, a young boy eating watermelon, & of course the Navy goat – worthy folk art from the hands of a boy. 


In 1939 the Moores moved back to Washington, living near the Cathedral.  All three boys enrolled in St. Albans, benefiting greatly from a fine prep school education.  In the lead-up to the war, his Naval career already at 30 years, my grandfather led convoys across the Atlantic, and eventually prosecuted Pacific campaigns as Admiral Spruance’s chief of staff.  The lower school librarian at St. Albans, asked my Dad to come speak, a couple of years ago, to the StA fourth graders on life during wartime.  It was a treat, as he regaled them with his stories of everyday life and his duties as fire watcher, that required him to climb the heights of the Cathedral to survey the City from Mt. St. Alban, duly armed with a pump-can water sprayer. 


In 1944, driven by his long sense of duty, my father chose a presidential appointment to the Naval Academy over Yale.  Like his brother before him, Class of ‘45, his uncle, Class of ’36, his father 1910, grandfathers 1889 & 74, great grandfather & captain of the USS Maine, (remember the Maine?) Class of 1865; & great, great grandfather, Henry Hayes Lockwood, a graduate of the West Point class of 1836, who helped found the Naval Academy in 1845, served at Gettysburg and held simultaneous commissions as a Brigadier General and Commodore -- My father, like his predecessors, did well at the Academy, as art director of the Log, JV soccer star and company commander.


With an ingrained love of the sea, the Navy was a good choice for my father.  His career may have progressed further had he not taken as many teaching stints & had the Bureau of Naval Personnel known where to find him in 1961, when he was at the French War College in Paris, when Admiral Anderson sought him out as his aide.  Yet my Dad put his family ahead of his career, when we settled in DC, his children & parents were at important crossroads in life.  He stayed at the Pentagon, foregoing Viet Nam.


Sumner spent his first year after graduation teaching at the Academy.  It was then he met and fell in love with his crab, as Middies called Annapolitans.  In the spring of 1949 as a groomsman, he met a beautiful bridesmaid named Jane Robinson Pancoast.  They were the only two amongst the wedding party at loose ends & as usual, it took my Dad a while to figure out that the fix was in.  They were married at the end of May.  Theirs was a dedicated love.


Within two years they started a family with Ann followed 18 months later by Kitt and in another two years Jeep.  The good Navy wife moved with Dad from Annapolis to Norfolk to New London to Norfolk to Charleston.  In my first four years we moved from Paris to Brest, France to Annapolis to Jacksonville to Alexandria.  Not easy with four children ranging in age from zero to ten. 


In the early years, Jeep remembers a kind father who would serenade them to sleep with his Honor chromatic harmonica, a man who built a really cool wooden toy chest with drawers for each child & constructed a play house from which they could jump off the seemingly expansive roof.  Ann recalls the father who’d return from deployments with Steiff stuffed animals. 


Dad was creative and meaningful in his family duties – for Jeeps’ birthday Dad carved a big freighter named the Jeep Moore, with the homeport of Annapolis; Jeep always thought it was named the “Jeep Moore Annapolis”.   For one of my birthdays in Alexandria, my father fashioned entire squads of the Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins out of painted clothes pins with wooden dowels as stands.  I’m not sure any of us ever had store-bought Halloween costumes.  Birthday cards were always hand drawn with themes that tied into one’s life at the time.  Friends coveted his cards which are framed on many a wall in Alexandria and elsewhere. 


He also had a very creative eye with his Browning movie camera, creating such classics as the 2-mile Race – a shot of childrens’ feet running in a circle around the words “2-mile race” carved in the sand or the famous fried chicken movie ─ “Is it good Jeep?”  He also loved the beach, from Dam Neck, to Mayport, to West Hampton to Newport.  Even when we traveled, we went to the beach.  Traveling in post -war Europe, it is surmised that we dropped the last bomb at Omaha Beach – one of Peter’s dirty diapers. 


After a point, the older three were turned loose to their own devices:  biking all around Paris and the Bois de Bologne, or building sand forts in Jacksonville.  In Brest, France there were no American schools, so my Dad dropped off the children were at the doors of the French school, whose officials spoke less English than the kids did French.  “Go to it.”  The boys were driven to school the first day in Annapolis & were told to walk the next (they got lost). 


In some ways our lives were offbeat.  We had weird English Anglia named Bridget, a Ford Country Squire named Mr. Green Jeans, Henri the 1960 Citröen 419 station wagon with the awesome lines & hydraulic suspension that moved the car up & down when it started.  A Simca named Albert.  Fiats named Sergio & Guisseppi.  No other family had such weird cars ─ with names no less. 


When we moved to DC in 1965, it was the beginning of a tumultuous time.  During the riots we could see the city burn from our house.  Though the older kids went to check out the anti-war rallies, my parents insisted that the family attend a pro-Nixon rally on the Mall, where the police tear gassed the counter demonstrators, which of course wafted up onto our family by the Monument.  Otherwise, the sixties were cool, with country club swim team in the summers and school in the winter, and we emerged the decade and the early seventies fairly unscathed.


Now speaking of the country club, Dad was a poor golfer and a somewhat ungainly tennis player.  But his senior year at St. Albans he lettered in football & soccer & continued with soccer at Annapolis.  He used to point out the field at Episcopal High School by the main gate where he broke his nose as a JV fullback.  As a child, I had a vision of my Dad as some sort of Bronco Nagursky with a leather helmet and no face mask. 


But in the days before the myriad of leisure sporting activities we now have available, Dad excelled in off-beat sports.  He passed on his great love of body surfing, learned as a child in California.  We’ll never forget Dad zooming towards shore, his head above the froth, hands on his thighs as rudders, carving the wave with the silliest of eye-popping, jaw-jutting faces.  He took up roller blading in his late sixties, banging around Crystal City with only garden gloves for protection.


And then there was boules or Pétanque, perhaps you know the Italian version, bocce.  We raked courts in the sand at the beach and played many a round in the yard in Newport.  For a not overtly competitive family the title of Champion des boules was coveted.  The play was hard fought and the accent usually French. 


But Dad enjoyed the winter sports as well.  I can only really ice skate forwards, as I learned on Spa Creek in Annapolis and on the C&O Canal, cutting tracks with Dad, like Dutchmen, between Key & Chain bridges. In an article on their Alexandria neighborhood in the Washington Post real estate section, Dad, then in his seventies was cited as a great wonder by the wonderful neighbors, having joined the youngsters in plummeting down a snow-packed Mansion Drive on a flexible flyer. 


In fact, Dad was accomplished at entertaining feats like juggling, & he was excellent with a yoyo.  He could also stand at the end of a diving board, flop to his rump & execute a nifty dive into the pool -- the famous “spank the baby”.  Then there was his amazing ability to play the recorder with his nose & whistle harmony – always an in demand party trick. 


Dad loved music, singing in a madrigal group and with the St. Paul’s Alexandria choir.  He would humor my musical tastes as well on our long road trips to and from Newport.  In the eighties these were often weekend turnarounds, leaving at midnight on Friday.  His fortitude and Naval training kept him in good stead.  On Monday, I’d be a wreck. 


Out of both duty, dedication, and fortitude, my parents sacrificed a lot in creature comforts to educate their children.  Nothing has been done to the Alexandria house since we moved in 1965, which means nothing has been done in seventy years.  Dad considered himself a DIY’er.  Until only two or three years ago, Dad would still ascend a 2.5 story extension ladder to clean & patch copper gutters & tame the ever-wild ivy.  I may have only seen one tradesman that house in 40 years.  My mother scoffed that my Dad was trained in electrical engineering, yet the new fan in the kitchen ceiling took months to mount given the aged wiring that baffled him.  Something to do w/lacking a dipole switch.  The dryer bought the year Jeep was born just retired.  My Dad forewent the free delivery and parted out the classic rounded machine over several months for the trashmen. 


Though not a gardener, like his parents, he was more the yard man, at home with his loppers and saws, with only his trademark white terry-cloth hat visible moving above the bushes in Newport.  That house was fairly state of the art for its time, particularly by Moore standards including a microwave & ice maker.  In Newport, my parents loved being by the water & settled into a routine of going to Bailey’s Beach, the NYYC & in latter years enjoying the incredible vistas from the Clambake Club. 


My parents enjoyed a good party, and they loved to dance.  My Dad worked a room well with a warm smile, hearty handshake and great conversation.  We too have fond memories of time in bars and restaurants with them in DC in my high school and your college years.


My Dad was fond of the ladies’ company & vice versa, but he was absolutely dedicated to my mother.  When my Mom died, he told his doctor, his reason for all the chemo & radiation was gone (what were we I asked, chopped liver?), but we knew it was true.  He showed incredible loyalty, dedication and care for my Mom. 


In his final weeks, my Dad always gracious & welcoming, immediately won over his caretakers as the Martha Jefferson House. 


He also felt a duty to his community.  With the Alexandria Symphony, he spent several years as bookkeeper, who’s only way out was to become president.  He served as president of the Alexandria Association, president of the St. Albans alumni association & governing Board member, as well as being the fundraiser in chief for his class, always present for a phonathon.  Clearly though my dad is well loved & respected by the StA community, but his impact on & dedication to the Class of 1948 USNA has only truely hit home to his children in the last year.  There have been cards from nearly every state in the Union in the last year.  The giant card and incredible warm wishes that were sent from last year’s West Coast Class reunion touched my parents.  As class scribe, my father was the center of activity for his class, delivering news with great style and wit. 


But in the end for all this, his good nature, his inherited love of words and silly turns of phrase, his dedication to family, school, & community, his inner fortitude, it was my Dad’s abiding faith that impresses me.  In his own words, he really wanted his children and grandchildren to know that his basic beliefs fueled his life.  Yet these beliefs were not static. 

“They have evolved; they are evolving.  This does not mean that I am continually changing my mind, or inventing new things, but that as I have progressed through life, I have matured.  The capacity to mature is infinite, and this fact is uplifting encouraging.  You and I will never reach full maturity.  I find this fact most comforting and exciting, to know that I can and will continue to learn and be refined in spirit and soul as long as I live.”[1]


I firmly believe that my father will continue to learn and spirit refined, that he is now untied with my brother and his bride.  He would not want us to be sad today, but to be of good cheer and enjoy the good party to follow, both today and in our lives.


Godspeed, Sumner Kittelle Moore.

[1] From “The Credo of Sumner K. Moore”  Likely written in the early to mid 1990’s,  on his word processor.