LONDON - People across Britian have been paying tribute to Tom Moore, the 100-year-old British Second World War veteran who raised millions for health workers and offered hope to Britons and others around the world during the pandemic.
Moore died Tuesday. He was being treated at a hospital for breathing difficulties after contracting pneumonia and had also been diagnosed with the coronavirus last week.
In April 2020, as Britain entered lockdown at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, former army Captain Tom Moore set out to raise 1,000 pounds for the National Health Service by walking a hundred laps of his garden, inspired by the treatment he’d received for a broken hip and cancer. People took Moore to their hearts and donations poured in for the humble 99-year-old, who became affectionately known as ‘Captain Tom.’
“The first two laps it's a bit hard, after that I'm thinking what I'm doing and I just keep on doing it. Once I've started it's fine and that's why I keep on going,” Moore told reporters as he approached his target of 100 laps.
Moore had served for the British Army in Myanmar, India and Sumatra during WWII. Troops from his home Yorkshire Regiment formed an honor guard for what was supposed to be the final lap, by which time Moore had raised more than £12 million (U.S.$16 million) for the NHS.
“It’s unbelievable that people could be so kind to give that sort of money to the National Health Service. And maybe I was responsible for starting it, but not deliberately. It was purely… shall we say gratitude for what they’ve done for me,” Moore said.
He decided to keep on walking. By the time he closed the donation page on April 30, his 100th birthday, Moore had raised a staggering £38 million (U.S.$53 million). He received some 150,000 birthday cards from around the world. Others took inspiration for their own fundraising endeavors, raising millions more for charity.
Moore scored a number one hit on the British singles chart with a rendition of the 1963 Gerry and the Pacemakers’ hit ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’
In July, Captain Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. The British Army promoted him to ‘Honorary Colonel.’ In September, he released an autobiography, the title taken from his iconic words: ‘Tomorrow will be a good day.’ “Always be optimistic whatever you're talking about, be optimistic because it's a good day, I mean things will get better,” Moore said at the book launch.
Moore had contracted pneumonia and was diagnosed with the coronavirus on January 22. He was unable to be vaccinated due to the medication he was taking. The 100-year-old passed away Tuesday after a short stay in Bedford hospital in central England, with his family by his side.
His death has triggered a national outpouring of grief and admiration.
“I think everyone is sort of feeling it because so many people have lost someone that they're connecting with that,” said 30-year-old London teacher Charlotte Turnbull.
John Karssiens, an NHS Doctor, said: “Thank you so much, Captain Tom. It's a massive, massive thing you've done for the country.”
The royal family’s Twitter account posted the following message: ‘The Queen is sending a private message of condolence to the family of Captain Sir Tom Moore. Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Captain Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year. Her thoughts and those of the Royal Family are with them.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a televised statement Wednesday. “Captain Sir Tom Moore was a hero in the truest sense of the word. In the dark days of the Second World War he fought for freedom and in the face of this country's deepest post-war crisis he united us all, he cheered us all up, and he embodied the triumph of the human spirit,” Johnson said.
In a statement, Moore’s family said: “The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of.”
Moore will be remembered most for his messages of hope. “To all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment,” he once said, “the sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away.”