Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Bill Moore holds a photo of himself as a military policeman in Korea after World War II. 
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Bill Moore holds a photo of himself as a military policeman in Korea after World War II.

Bill Moore, despite being bound in a wheelchair, keeps up a brisk schedule, manning the phone and tending an organized but overflowing desk. He writes checks for good causes and advises charitable organizations, many of them Catholic.  

Moore, an 83-year-old member of St. Ignatius Parish in Southeast Portland, spent more than 50 years in the printing industry, 42 as president of Moore Lithograph, the company he founded in a single room that expanded into a massive Northeast Portland edifice.

Moore has long been about more than business. He has served as a member of the board of Oregon Catholic Press, publisher of this newspaper. He was longtime chairman of the Providence Child Center Foundation.

Moore wanted to see the child center, which is home to profoundly disabled youths, get a new building and a solid financial footing, which he did. He calls the employees "marvelous and dedicated."

"Bill is a wonderful person," says Karen Santangelo, executive director of the Providence Child Center Foundation. "He holds a very special place in his heart for the poor and vulnerable."

The spirit of generosity came from humble beginnings.

His father was alternately a carpenter, grocer, logger and executive for the Pullman train car company, much of it during the Great Depression. The jobs changed as the family traveled about to "stay ahead of the rent collector." There were three children, a boy and two girls.  

"We had a good family life," Moore says. "I didn't know we were poor."

His father passed on an ethic of honesty and hard work, while his mother was a teetotaler who ruled the roost firmly.

Moore attended Cathedral School and went on to Central Catholic in the mid-1940s.
Moore left Central Catholic after a dust-up with the feisty prefect of discipline, who accused the boy of hot-rodding in his 1937 Packard and coming from a bad family. Moore says the charges were untrue, but he decided to finish his career at Washington High.   

Moore worked his way through school in department stores, grocers, and a carpet shop. With the war on, a boy could find a job easily. The family lived at Northeast 20th and Davis.  

He was one of the locally famous "Broadway Boys," a team of dapper youths who strolled up and down Portland's main entertainment avenue on Saturdays. They would save up money for top-quality shirts. After walking for a while, they'd go to one of the boys' houses for something to eat.   

After graduation, Moore waited until he turned 18 and joined the Army. He was not yet shaving. After a sickening ride through the stormy Pacific on a troop ship, he arrived in Japan and then Korea, which was about to erupt into war. He was a military policeman who had little to do because the soldiers were either well behaved or broke the rules out of sight. He recalls filth and poverty in Seoul, where Koreans were dying on the streets. Moore left before fighting began.

He returned to Oregon and attended the University of Portland on the GI Bill. He studied fine arts, commuting from the family home in a 1928 Whippet, which looked impossibly old fashioned by that point. Classes were packed with former soldiers.
Moore felt restless and left college before graduating.   

"I couldn't wait to conquer the world," he says.

He landed a job as a salesman with the Mail Well envelope company and worked his way up.  

Moore wed his first wife young. When she refused to have children, he filed for divorce and an annulment. In 1953, he married Rosemary, a longtime Portland girl, and would remain with her happily for 51 years, until her death. He and Rosemary had five sons, leading to joyful chaos in the household.

Moore was making good money in the envelope business, but wanted to be his own boss. In 1962, he started a printing company in a small room and ended up in a 30,000-square foot warehouse. Moore Lithograph printed business cards and handbills, then big posters, brochures and catalogues.

By virtue of Rosemary's Italian heritage, Moore became an honorary paisano, and a member of the powerful Italian Businessmen's Club.

He loved the printing industry, in large part because he was able to work with creative people. The business had 37 employees at its height.

In 2003, he sold his assets to a Forest Grove firm. It would have cost too much to buy the new equipment to stay current. Now, Providence Health and Services is set to raze the company's building on Northeast Glisan Street and build a residence for families visiting the hospital.

Not far from Moore's desk and its piles, Rosemary died in a comfortable bed in the front room, which has a large picture window facing the scenic grounds of Reed College.

"She's been gone almost 10 years," he says. "I still reach over in the middle of the night to touch her and she's not there."