Thomas Moore was known as a lovable giant in the hallways and classrooms of Perry Middle School, where he had served as principal for 13 years.
All his life, he was loud and rambunctious, said his wife, Melanie Moore. The former football coach and teacher also had a knack for corny jokes and one-liners.
“He was full of life, and he liked to have fun and cut up. He just made everybody laugh,” said his wife, an assistant principal at Houston County High School.
“Ole Big,” as he was called around town, spent most of his childhood in Montgomery with his mother and sister. His father was killed by a drunk driver when Thomas was 7.
When he was a teenager, his mother enrolled him at a private military academy because he was a “handful,” his wife said. Years later, his high energy — and ability to motivate others — would make him a successful campus leader.
“When that guy came in that room, he doggone won the day,’' said Jesse Davis, a longtime friend who was on the interview committee that hired Moore to be principal at Perry Middle. “He won that interview based on that big personality. It was the humor, the charisma.”
Around June 7, while the couple were out in the backyard grilling steaks, they had noticed that they had lost their sense of taste. “Looking back, now I think that was a sign, but we didn’t know anything about it at the time.”
Later, they simultaneously tested positive for COVID-19.
While Melanie recovered quickly, a doctor diagnosed her husband with pneumonia. Rather than recommend he be hospitalized, the doctor sent him home with some strong cough medication, his wife said.
Not long after that, Thomas Moore urged his wife to take him to the emergency room of Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins. That was the last time she was in the same room with him.
Up until the day he died, she was not allowed to visit his bedside. While she could phone him, after a while he lost his ability to speak. On June 21, he was placed on a ventilator.
The last phone call was on July 6. While saying her goodbyes, she watched the clock. She said it struck 12:37 p.m. when he took his last breath. He was 58 years old.
“I watched the clock flicker. I will never forget it.”
More than 170 other Houston County residents have died of COVID-19.