Friday, May 18, 2012

TOP STORY >> At 80, still roofing and tough as nails

Leader staff writer

Tough as nails best describes 80-year-old Jacksonville roofer Richard Moore.

Moore could be seen atop First Assembly of God Church on North Elm Street for several weeks nailing new shingles on a portion of the church. Moore’s been roofing since the late 1940s, helping his father who was also a roofing contractor.

“I haven’t had a bad accident at all. I never fell off a roof.Jumped off, but not fell off,” Moore said.

Moore was born in 1931 in Inglewood, Calif. His family moved to Jacksonville in 1947 when his father was contracted to roof houses in Sunnyside.

Moore was 18 years old, attending Jacksonville High School when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War in 1953. He entered the war as a bridge builder and ended up a baker. He earned his diploma through an ROTC training program.

When his father passed away in 1955, Richard and his late brothers, Cappy and Jim, continued the roofing business.

“Both were pretty good roofers,” Moore said.

Today, Moore has help from Lemuel Smith and Joe Champagne. Still caring about safety, Moore points out to the guys where to step and how to walk on pitched roofs.

He often asks his co-workers if they are getting overheated or need a water break from the blistering sun.

“We work till about noon, till it gets too hot,” Moore said.

“Shoveling the shingles is a pretty good job, and carrying them up the ladder is a job,” Moore said.

Moore works at a steady pace, making sure the shingles are aligned and aren’t bowed up so the wind doesn’t catch them.

“If I hit a crack in the wood, I try to nail higher,” he said.

“I might have been fast at one time, but not anymore,” Moore said.

Moore is planning to retire this year. He tried to last year, but the Yellow Pages didn’t take his business number out so customers kept calling.

Moore will still climb a ladder and check on the roofs he’s installed, a number he’s lost count of.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, a second-generation home builder, who worked 25 years in the industry before being elected, said Moore still does roofing the old-fashioned way: By hand with a hammer.

“Richard is a true craftsman. He is an active, hard-working man,” Fletcher said .

The mayor said roofers have the toughest job in construction. They need stamina and strength to work often under intense heat and wind.

“I highly respect him. He’s salt of the earth great,” Fletcher said.

Whit Davis Lumber general manager Dan Davis said it is remarkable for Moore to be able to continue to roof at his age.

“He does a phenomenal job. He does it old-school, the right way. He’s dependable as you can be. I refer him to do repair jobs. He can find a leak. I think the world of him,” Davis said.

Davis said Moore’s hammer’s wood handle has conformed to his hand after decades of hard work.

With amazement, Davis described Moore’s hammer’s face that is worn so much from driving nails and grinding against the shingles.

Moore and his wife, Norma will be married 53 years this month. They have two sons, Richard and Don and three grandchildren, Jordan, Jared and Beth.