May 25, 2015

Remembering Mr. Robert C. Moyer

"Periscope" Adviser Robert C. Moyer as he appeared in the 2005 yearbook.
Mr. Robert C. Moyer died at the age of 70 on May 16, 2015. He was a most important mentor.

He was the first person to teach me about newspaper reporting, back when I was on the staff of my high school student rag. As such, I'll refer to him in proper second-reference style today: Moyer.

Without Moyer, there would be no food critique. Thanks to his role as adviser of the Carlisle High School monthly newspaper Periscope, I started writing cafeteria critiques when I was in the 11th grade. They ran until I graduated, and they were enough fun that I kept the idea alive reviewing inexpensive food on this blog. A decade later, I still write reviews when I can find a few spare minutes and a worthy subject, simply because it's so much fun.

I would also be in a different professional field without Moyer. I'm a newspaper reporter today because of his early instruction. He taught me the inverted pyramid in a high school classroom. He edited my work with a wise but unyielding red pen. He taught me to count headline characters, a skill that has been critical at times over the years, even in an age when computers should have streamlined that process long ago. He wrote a letter of recommendation to get me into college.

More importantly, Moyer taught me that you can have fun every day in your life, even when you have work to do. You can joke with people and show them you value and care about them. We would all do well to conduct ourselves as he did.

When I was a senior in high school, I won an essay contest from the Daughters of the American Revolution, a women's service organization focused on patriotism and history. Anyone could enter the contest, but as an 18-year-old high school male, my winning opened me up for plenty of daughter jokes.

Moyer a teacher was the first to make those jokes. I remember walking into his classroom the day I won to see him beaming with a smile that was about 90 percent pride and 10 percent imp. He started by saying that my award was a great honor and that the Daughters of the American Revolution was a prestigious organization.

Then he proceeded to call me Carlisle High School's own daughter of the American Revolution. It was a joke he'd return to many times, usually in the middle of a group discussion in class, and usually when my teenage self needed to be cut down to size just a little bit.

That was far from the only such joke Moyer made, and I was far from the only subject. He had a way of using humor like that to include everyone in a conversation. You never felt targeted by his jokes. You felt embraced by them. At the end of the day, you knew he valued you and supported you.

If you got Moyer to talk about the classes he taught, he'd tell you some of his favorites were on the non-college preparatory track. He'd been in his position long enough that he could have picked all of the top classes, never interacting with the kids who weren't bound for big-name schools or prestigious scholarships.

He didn't do that, at least in part because he recognized the value of every single person in the school. He wanted to interact with those bound for all walks of life, and he enjoyed getting to know them. Again, we'd all do well to learn from him there.

I could share a dozen more memories of Moyer, but I'll end with two. The first is when I had graduated from college and returned to town to cover Carlisle for The Harrisburg Patriot-News. I ran into Moyer in a diner one day, and he pumped my hand emphatically and said he'd been reading my byline.

Now, I've been told by someone that they're reading my byline at least 50 times over my short career. The only instance I truly believed it was when I met Moyer in that diner.

The second memory I want to share is from when I was a senior in high school and different media outlets were doing human interest stories on my cafeteria critique column. It started with the Patriot-News writing about it, then the AP did a story, then a radio station, and I ended up doing a cable television hit.

Moyer was clearly proud. He was clearly having fun. But he also used the moment to remind us all that you never know what story will be picked up and run with by the press.

Coming from anyone else, that lesson could have ruined the experience by reminding me my 15 minutes of fame were nothing more than happenstance. But somehow, Moyer helped me reflect on the time in a way that made me value it more.

Here's a quote from Moyer that appeared in the AP story about my cafeteria critique:

“I enjoy the column, and I’ve never eaten the cafeteria food.”

I don't know if he ever ended up eating the cafeteria food. But today I want to raise a spork to Moyer. I'm so glad we crossed paths, and so sorry you left us all too soon.

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