Requiem for a Friend

Matt Moore leaves a history of good will and charity in his wake.

When Matt Moore died in the early morning hours of May 31, Tucson, and the world, lost a good and important friend.

The old saying, "You should live every day as if it is your last," has become a cliché by now, but to Moore, it truly was a way of life. Diagnosed as an infant with congenital heart disease, Moore's nearly 24 years of life (his birthday would have been June 12) were so busy, so multi-faceted and so giving, that most of us can only hope to accomplish as much in our time.

When Moore passed, he was surrounded by friends. It happened quickly and peacefully, mere minutes after his friends in Chango Malo had finished performing at Club Congress.

Known to many in the local music community as one of its most avid supporters, he was officially the only nonmusical member of the Stunning Tonto family--a loose conglomeration of local bands that also serves as a record label. Instead, he largely performed behind the scenes. He was a big part of the inspiration behind Stunning Tonto Presents, Volume 1, a recent compilation of local bands; he initially offered to fund its release. Says Chango Malo guitarist Ian Philabaum, who knew Moore since the first grade, "It wouldn't have happened as it did without him. He was an idea man. We would say, 'Wouldn't it be neat if ...' and Matt would say, 'OK, then this is what needs to happen ...'"

When Chango Malo wanted to print a batch of T-shirts, Moore loaned the band money to do it via credit card.

He was one of a dozen or so people--again, the only nonmusical one--to be awarded with an original Stunning Tonto jersey, a symbol of his efforts in inspiring his musical friends to strive to reach greater heights (his jersey will be retired this week at a show at Club Congress in his honor). As Chango Malo's Ryan Couch writes in an e-mail, "Beyond Matt's love for the music coming out of Tucson, he really saw the potential the local scene had for bringing people together. I think he envisioned a community where everyone could get involved, have fun and work towards making the world a better place." And, truly, he did.

Beyond his efforts in the local music scene, his energies were focused in myriad directions. Following a trip to El Salvador, where he learned of the teachings of Oscar Romero--a Salvadoran Archbishop and martyr who issued a call to arms in helping those less fortunate than oneself ("God needs the people themselves to save the world")--he devoted himself to humanitarian causes. "It just got in his blood," says Philabaum. "It fired him up, and he had been that way ever since."

Moore served for the last three-plus years as Youth Director at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, where he counseled scores of kids, and had recently begun working with Open Inn Shelter, a program for adolescents who have been in the criminal justice system. He was one of 14 members of a Presbyterian Peace Fellowship/Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation who traveled to Israel in October 2001, when Bethlehem was under siege by Israeli forces. He and the other members were invited to visit the family of Johnny Thaljieh, who was killed at the age of 16 on the first day of the siege by Israeli gunfire, while praying in front of the Church of the Nativity. The group was the first from outside the area to stay in Bethlehem since the attack had begun. And he was extremely passionate about, and involved in, border issue organizations like BorderLinks, Samaritan Patrol and Humane Borders.

Moore was one of seven people to deploy the first water stations for border-crossers in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. And he took his aid one step further as a Samaritan Patrol volunteer, risking arrest to rescue border-crossers in need, bringing them to the United States to recuperate in his Isuzu Trooper, which was adorned with a bumper sticker that read: "Jesus Was a Refugee." He had founded his own nonprofit organization regarding border issues shortly before his death.

The Matthew Moore Mission Scholarship Fund, which will continue to educate and encourage activism on border issues through the organizations he was involved with, has been established at St. Mark's, and this week, four local bands will perform in his honor with all proceeds being donated to Humane Borders.

In a posting on Chango Malo's Web site, Philabaum describes Moore: "He is a youth leader, humanitarian, social activist, scholar, skater, drinking buddy, pro on the karaoke circuit, lover of Los Betos burritos, 'mosh pitter,' San Francisco Giants fan, fart machine and most importantly, a best friend. Matt is the kind of guy who was not only passionate about his own work, but he was equally involved with the passions and the work of those he was close to, and he would encourage one to think bigger and better by getting involved himself and bringing new ideas to the table. This is one of the many reasons Matt is loved by such a great number of people, and inspires everyone he meets in such a special and unique way."