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Former governor Arch Moore turns 90

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Former Gov. Arch Moore, right, turns 90 today. His daughter, Shelley Moore Capito, is a Republican congresswoman and candidate for U.S. Senate in next year's election.

It has been 24 years since Arch Moore lived in the Governor's Mansion, but his legacy still looms large in the Capitol's limestone hallways.

It was Moore, in the first of three terms as governor, who successfully saw the state constitution amended to allow governors to succeed themselves in office.

Moore also was the first chief executive to enjoy full authority in the budget-making process, thanks to a constitutional amendment adopted the same year he was elected governor.

He settled coal strikes, ended a prison riot, increased payments for welfare programs, expanded the state's infrastructure and fought for teacher pay raises.

Those accomplishments are sometimes overshadowed by his time in federal prison for corruption charges. But today, Arch Moore will mark another milestone.

West Virginia's oldest living governor turns 90 years old.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who represents West Virginia's 2nd Congressional district, said the family would celebrate her father's birthday this weekend with a small celebration at his Glen Dale home.

"He will love knowing he's turning 90. This will be fun for all of us," she said.

The entire Moore family - Capito, her brother Kim and sister Lucy, along with seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild - plans to attend.

Capito said the family would celebrate with cake and ice cream "and thank our lucky stars that we have both our parents with us, and they're still together."

Arch and Shelley Moore have been married for 63 years and are still deeply in love.

"He still looks at my mom like she's the girl he met in Morgantown," Capito said, tearfully.

Arch Moore and Shelley Riley met on a blind date when they were students at West Virginia University.

According to Brad Crouser's biography of the former governor, one of Arch's friends had a date with Riley and offered to set Moore up with one of her sorority sisters for a double date.

Moore soon found himself paying more attention to Riley than his own date. The feeling was mutual, and the two immediately began dating. They married in 1949.

Capito said her father had a profound influence on his children, and that has extended to her own political career. Arch Moore made sure his children understood those in public office could make positive changes in government but also in individual people's lives.

"He taught us to treat everybody the same. He lived that, and that's been very helpful to me," she said.

Capito said her dad also emphasized the importance of education and knowledge.

Moore did not attend college when he graduated high school but worked at a cookware manufacturing plant before taking a job as a timekeeper for Bechtel Corp., according to Crouser's biography. He was drafted into the Army in May 1943 and soon was shipped to Germany to fight in World War II.

Moore managed to avoid the front lines during his first year in the Army. Blessed with a high IQ, he was tapped by the Army to train as an engineer as part of its Army Specialized Training Program.

That schooling abruptly stopped following the massive casualties of D-Day. The Army dissolved the specialized training program and reassigned its cadets to infantry and special-operations units. Moore, by then a sergeant, wound up in Germany.

During one firefight, Moore was shot by a German machine gunner. The bullet tore through his face, causing extensive damage and blood loss. Surgeons were able to repair much of the damage, but he still carries scars from the battle.

Back home in West Virginia, Moore finally was able to attend West Virginia University. He entered school as a junior thanks to the credits he earned with the Army Specialized Training Program. After completing his bachelor's degree, he stayed at WVU to earn a law degree.

Capito said her father maintained his love of learning throughout his years in public office.

"He always knew more than everybody in the room," she said.

When Capito began considering her 2014 run for U.S. Senate, she told her father before announcing it to the public.

"He looked at me, gave me the thumbs up, had a sparkle in his blue eyes and said, 'Let's go,' " Capito said.

Capito said her parents don't get around much anymore. Her mother has Alzheimer's disease while her father suffers from heart trouble and dementia. Their children visit as often as possible, working together to care for their parents. A nearby aunt and uncle also help, as do some paid caregivers.

"My dad was always a fighter, a very strong man, but he's met his match with his aging years," Capito said.

She said a different kind of strength has emerged in recent years.

Arch Moore rarely has talked about his faith in public. He never wore it on his sleeve or used God to gain political points.

But Capito said she has realized in recent years her father is a deeply devout man.

"It's much deeper and more intense than I had thought about. He really has relied a whole lot on a higher power," she said. "He believes in a bountiful and loving God, rich in forgiveness."

Wounded and bleeding in a foreign field, Moore once made God a promise: If he survived, he would dedicate the rest of his life to the service of others.

Those who wish to send a birthday greeting may mail it to P.O. Box 112147, Charleston, WV 25339. The Glen Dale address is 507 Jefferson Ave., Glen Dale, WV 26038.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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