Ken Moore will not be at his family's Thanksgiving table, this year. But he'll be in the hearts and minds of those attending Virginia Run's Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot.
The race raises money for Inova's Life With Cancer program, and Moore — who died Feb. 1 at age 60 — is one of two local residents to whom this year's Turkey Trot is dedicated.
"I miss him — we all do," said his wife Cherie. "But I think we're progressing. The first year is difficult because it's the first of everything [without him]. So we're redeveloping new traditions."
Had he lived, Nov. 10 would have been their 31st wedding anniversary. But they did get to raise five sons and a daughter together. Ken Jr., 28, is in GMU's law school; Aimee, 27, works for the American Red Cross in Alexandria; Dave, 24, works for GTSI in Chantilly; Tim, 23, is a senior at Virginia Tech; Mark, 21, is transferring to Radford University; and Geoff, 19, attends NOVA.
KEN MOORE served 20 years in the Navy — both active duty and Reserves, did intelligence work for the National Security Agency and later began his own company doing computer consulting for defense contractors. A devoted husband and father, he was a fixture at his children's sports events, instilled a strong work ethic in them and stressed the value of education.
Their children and settling her husband's estate has kept Cherie busy, this past year. And when she's especially sad, she takes comfort in a letter Ken wrote to his favorite aunt, several years ago, before he was diagnosed with cancer. His uncle had died, and the aunt eventually remarried.
He wrote, "Should it have been me, this is what I would have wanted for my family," said Cherie. "The aunt mailed it back to our family, a few days before Ken died, and we read it."
Cherie and Ken were always able to talk to each other, so they'd previously talked about the possibility of his dying. Said Cherie: "He said, 'I know things would be difficult. I'm not afraid to die — the hardest part would be leaving the ones I love. I don't want it to hold you or the children back, and I'd want you to go on with your lives.'"
Unfortunately, death has touched the Moore family several times in the past few years. During Christmas week 2001, Ken's maternal grandmother died. A few weeks later, in January 2002, Cherie's mother died. "Forty-eight hours after returning from burying [her], we learned that Ken's mother was diagnosed with cancer," said Cherie. "She died, the week of Mother's Day, 2002."
Then in spring 2003, doctors diagnosed Ken with cancer. He and Cherie had planned a special trip for their 25th anniversary but, at that time, Cherie was taking care of her sick mother. They postponed it to their 30th anniversary but, by then, Ken was undergoing advanced chemotherapy.
STILL, SAID CHERIE, "We were so lucky — we had 30 wonderful years together." Now, though, she knows she has to adapt to her changed circumstances. "As you grow, you have different dreams and values than you had in your youth," she said.
One thing she definitely wants to do is resume her career. She worked as a nurse at Johns Hopkins hospital before her children were born and would like to return to her field. She's glad her children got to see how she and Ken took care of their parents and, later, they helped her care for Ken during his illness.
"Growing up and seeing that circle of life is part of our education and puts life in perspective," explained Cherie. "We see that there's beauty in every stage." And looking back on everything, she's at peace.
"Ken left us with a blessing," she said. "He told us how much he loved us. And the children had time to say their goodbyes to Ken, so they had closure. And while I'll miss him saying the blessing at Thanksgiving, I know what we were facing, last Thanksgiving, and the pain he was in at Christmas."
"Even though the kids gave him gifts, we knew it was his last Christmas and he was straining to make it through," said Cherie. And she's glad he's no longer suffering: "Now he's not hurting — which is better for all of us — because when he hurt, we hurt."
As for him being remembered at Turkey Trot, she said, "I'm so appreciative because it's a very worthwhile endeavor in our community. You never know when cancer will hit your family, directly or indirectly. And for Ken's name to be associated with the Life with Cancer program, we are indeed proud. He would be very pleased."