I used to walk past it almost every day. He was an icon.
Beloved Ogden barber Willie Moore died earlier this week at his home in Maryland. He was 95.
Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Moore moved to the Ogden area in his teens, according to his granddaughter, Cara Robinson. For decades, Moore ran the popular Moore’s Barber Shop on the northwest corner of 25th Street and Lincoln Avenue. A pillar of 25th Street and the Ogden community in general, Moore cut hair six days a week into his 90s. In 2013, after his wife of 65 years — local community leader Betty Moore — died, Moore moved to Maryland to live with his daughter, Carol Moore Scott.
In a 2013 Standard-Examiner profile, Moore expressed his love for the city where he made his life.
“I think Ogden is the greatest place,” Moore said in 2013. “This is where I made my living, where I met my wife. Make sure you tell people that Ogden is the place.”
Apparently, the feeling was mutual.
Cindy Simone, who owns the Kokomo Club on Historic 25th Street with her husband Eddie, said more than 500 people showed up to Moore’s going away party in 2013, which was held at Simone’s 25th Street bar.
“I loved, loved, loved Willie and so did a lot of other people,” Simone said. “He belonged to Ogden. Everyone always knew, Willie Moore was in the corner store. Well, he was a cornerstone in Ogden and he always will be.”
Simone said she’s working with Ogden City to get some kind of historical marker, paying tribute to Moore, on the barber shop’s exterior.
Local Blues musician and radio DJ “Bad” Brad Wheeler connected with Moore years ago, soaking up the barber’s knowledge on music and culture, as it related to Ogden.
“He would tell stories about Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, even Eleanor Roosevelt, stopping on 25th Street,” Wheeler said. “People who were really part of creating some of the culture in America — and they came through Ogden, which probably not a lot of people realize. Willie was kind of one of the last, great vessels of knowledge in Ogden.”
Wheeler said Moore was a renaissance man of sorts, always doing or saying something that would astonish him. Wheeler recalled one such instance in particular, when after having already known Moore for years, he learned the barber spoke Spanish.
“One time, I was in his barber shop and he was talking to a customer,” Wheeler said. “And he just started rattling off Spanish. I was like, ‘Willie, I had no idea you spoke Spanish.’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘I learned a long time ago you gotta be able to do business with everybody in the neighborhood.'”
Wheeler said Moore’s relationship with the Ogden community was different than most other business owners along 25th Street.
“Everybody needs to get their haircut — even bald guys need to get a shave every once in a while,” Wheeler said. “So Willie would be cutting little kids’ hair, adults, people from every walk of life imaginable. He knew everybody and he could relate to them in some kind of way.”
Frankie Ortega, who bought the shop from Moore just before the elder barber retired, said he views the man as a father figure. He kept the Moore name on the shop, despite the change in ownership, as a way of paying tribute to the icon.
Ortega concurred with Simone and Wheeler about Moore’s legacy in Ogden.
“I remember being in the shop and there was a man in there who had to have been at least 75,” Ortega said. “And the guy said, ‘Yeah, Willie used to cut my hair when I was a little kid. And I was just thinking, ‘How is that even possible?’ But then you start doing the math and realize, yeah, Willie is in his 90s, so he did cut this guy’s hair when he was a kid. That’s when I realized how connected Willie was to the community.”
Robinson said Moore’s funeral is set for 10 a.m. March 29 at the St. Rose the Lima Catholic Church, 210 Chapel Street, Layton. A viewing will be held at 7 p.m. March 28 at Lindquist Mortuary, 3408 Washington Blvd., Ogden.
You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.