Bradford, Vt. — It started out an ordinary Tuesday.
Timothy Moore, a longtime Upper Valley firefighter and EMT, arrived at the Thetford Center Post Office for his part-time shift and began sorting mail.
The day, Nov. 26, 2002, became anything but routine when Moore’s work was interrupted by a resident rapping on the window.
A driver had veered off the Sayers Bridge, and the car was on its roof in the Ompompanoosuc River, the resident relayed with a sense of urgency.
It wasn’t by coincidence that the resident pounded on the post office’s window. That person was one of many in Thetford who knew Moore would be there with his 30-some years of rescue experience.
Moore hurried to the scene and jumped into the frigid water, racing to a woman who had been trapped underwater in the driver’s seat for several minutes.
He immediately started CPR on her seemingly lifeless body.
She came to.
“The next thing I remembered was waking up lying on the bottom of my car, surrounded by people,” said Strafford resident Nellie Pennington. “I was completely amazed that I was actually alive. I spent the next few days piecing it together.”
Pennington, now 56, has a spotty memory of the ordeal, but one thing remains crystal clear: She wouldn’t have made it out alive if it hadn’t been for Moore and the others who rushed to her aid that morning.
“There are a lot of people who say, ‘I wouldn’t be here except for ...,’ ” Pennington said. “In my case, it is literally true. I would not be here without all of the people who did those amazing things, in particular Tim, who actually did the resuscitation.”
Moore, a firefighter for Hanover, Norwich, Thetford, Bradford, Corinth and Vershire, and a longtime educator for the Vermont Fire Academy, died on Aug. 4, 2016. He was 59.
Moore grew up in Plymouth, Vt., and eventually attended Woodstock High School. Shortly after graduating in 1974, he enrolled in Dartmouth College — not the typical path for someone heading into the firefighting profession.
Moore started his firefighting career while still an undergraduate — first at the Plymouth, Vt., department and then at the Hanover Fire Department, a career force.
Dartmouth College, perhaps unintentionally, made it easy for Moore to get involved with the Hanover department.
Because of a housing shortage, some Dartmouth students — whether they were interested in firefighting or not — were housed in rooms at the fire station, said Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Mike Hinsley, who worked alongside Moore for about eight years. Moore lucked out, and was one of the people who stayed in a bunk room at the station.
Perhaps it was because he forgot to put in for a room assignment to stay on campus, Hinsley joked. Either way, it worked out.
Moore graduated from Dartmouth in ‘78 with a degree in urban and regional studies and a concentration in planning and management.
He initially was inclined to go into city management. That was short-lived.
“He was a firefighter first and foremost,” his wife, Brenda Hill Moore, said. “It was his major love in life.”
While working for Hanover, which he did until 1991, Moore also worked for the Thetford Fire Department, a volunteer agency where he was a lifetime member.
He served as Thetford chief for several years.
Moore spent many of his days shaping the Thetford Fire Department and training its firefighters.
“He wanted to have the Thetford Fire Department be the best department that it could be,” Thetford Fire Chief Chad Whitcomb said. “Because of his leadership and his training, I think our department is where it is today.”
After Moore and his wife moved to Bradford in 2004, he worked briefly as the deputy fire chief for that town’s department. But it wasn’t a good fit, so he didn’t stay for long.
He still had a passion for firefighting, though, and he served the fire departments of Vershire and Corinth, both of which he was an active member of when he passed.
Moore was no stranger to the Vershire department; he had been active back in the 1980s, when Vershire first started its force, providing training to all of its firefighters, said Fire Chief Stephen Ward.
Ward recalled learning firefighting techniques from Moore, back before firefighters knew how to best proceed when stepping into a high-intensity situation.
“It seems so simple now, but it wasn’t back then,” Ward said.
Many others benefited from his instruction: He taught at both the Vermont Fire Academy for 27 years and at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.
“He had a lot of success in teaching firefighters how to be safe and how to operate on a fire ground in all facets of the job,” said Michael Skaza, training and program coordinator at the academy. “If you’re a firefighter in the Upper Valley, there is a very good chance that Tim Moore instructed you at some point in your career.”
Moore poured his heart and soul into firefighting, Skaza said.
“Tim was one of the most hard-working men I have ever known,” Skaza said. “He always gave 100 percent.”
Moore developed testing and certification courses and took a new approach to the best practices for firefighting, said Hinsley, the Hanover deputy chief. He examined the way firefighters had done things in the past and concluded that there was ample room for improvement.
“He was an exceptionally smart guy, on the brilliance level,” Hinsley said. “We (Hanover) are benefiting from it now. He put a lot of practices in place.”
Moore also had a hand in regionalization, starting the Thetford-area training grounds in Post Mills, a place for training sessions.
Corinth Fire Chief Ed Pospisil said he and Moore hit it off a couple of years ago, both having come from career departments and both being passionate about firefighter training. The two would take long trips south to Connecticut and the surrounding areas to haul equipment back to the Upper Valley and would spend hours talking “fire.”
“It was almost like a marriage,” Pospisil said jokingly.
Firefighting always remained his primary focus, said Brenda, but farming eventually became a beloved hobby.
The couple bought a home with land when they moved to Bradford, and he hayed it, as well as the neighbors’ property, totaling about 100 acres. He named it Moore Land Farm.
She described her husband of 26 years as easy going, generous and knowledgeable about a host of things. Together, they enjoyed camping and boating.
“He had a great sense of humor, and when he laughed the whole world knew it,” Moore said.
Brenda Moore’s sister, Carol Bean, remembered her brother-in-law as extremely caring.
“He was never too busy to do anything for anybody,” she said.
His stepdaughter, Rebecca Stearns, concurred.
“He would give anybody anything,” she said. “Time, attention, whatever they needed.”
Moore had two stepchildren, Stearns and Nathaniel Hill, and a brother and a sister. He also had a young grandson who lit up his world.
Norwich Fire Chief Steve Leinoff spoke highly of Moore, whom he met in the late ‘70s. Together, they traveled the state teaching training courses.
The two were in Hartford burning a building as part of a training exercise, and Moore went up into the attic and started spraying fuel around in preparation for the burn. He wasn’t expecting what would come next.
“The thing lit right up and he ended diving down the ladder,” Leinoff said. “It was a good story to tell afterward,” something that was made even better by Moore’s laugh, he said.
Recalling the November day when Moore was instrumental in saving Pennington’s life prompted Leinoff to speculate about his colleague’s wider impact.
“We can only guess how many other lives he has saved by the knowledge he has given firefighters around the state,” Leinoff said.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.