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Moore is retiring from Columbine, but his legacy will live on

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By Deborah Swearingen

As students and faculty gathered in the gymnasium at Chatfield Senior High School in the aftermath of the April 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, Ivory Moore led the crowd in a chant that has since become recognizable to all.

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“We are… Columbine!”

“Everybody was in tears. … He’s screaming with everything he’s got, and kids are screaming with everything they’ve got,” co-worker Tom Tonelli recalled. “ … That didn’t mean that we didn’t need to heal a lot more after that, but that was such a moment of unity that I think only one guy was ever capable of bringing about.”

So when Moore, the longtime teacher and coach, retires at the end of the school year, most agree that he will leave an irreplaceable hole in the Columbine family.

Stop anyone walking through the halls of Columbine High School and they are bound to have a story to share about Moore. Most can remember a time when Moore shared a smile or kind word that shifted their mood, and others have an anecdote about his impact on the school.

“He’s probably the most loved teacher in this entire school,” said Torie Tonelli, 16. “He embodies Columbine in general, like the communal spirit. That is Mr. Moore.”

“His ability to connect with kids, even if he’s never had them as students, is unprecedented,” said co-worker Mandy Cooke. “I’ve never seen anybody have that. He’s one special guy.”

The road to Columbine

Moore is a graduate of Manual High School in Denver, and he went to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque after high school.

Though he lives in Aurora, Moore has worked in South Jeffco since the 1980s – first as a teacher at Ken-Caryl Middle School before starting at Columbine in 1994.

When football coach Andy Lowry joined the staff, he kept Moore on his coaching team, forming a long-lasting friendship.

“We’ve been more than just coaching compadres,” Moore said, choking up. “We’ve been brothers. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve been successful together.”

‘Heart and soul’

Humble. Selfless. Positive.

These are just a few of the ways those who know Moore describe him.

“Ivory Moore is probably one of the best human beings I have ever met in my whole life,” Lowry said. “He is the heart and soul of Columbine High School.”

Lowry can remember the first football game the pair coached together.

“He was our very first injury in our program,” Lowry said, laughing. “He got excited and jumped up and pulled his calf. After 24 years, it’s just the kind of passion that he lives his life.”

Because of all the school has been through, Moore, former principal Frank DeAngelis and others have become iconic figures in the community. Columbine’s past is also part of the reason why the school has formed a tight-knit bond.

It has not always been easy, but Moore does not dwell on it.

“I don’t have bad days. I choose not to,” he said.

Like an invisible but powerful force, Moore’s positivity fills the halls of the school, shaping students and teachers alike.

“That idea of the Columbine family really is rooted in Ivory,” said social studies teacher Jeff Garkow. “ … There’s so many teachers here who had him, who have gotten to know him, who look up to him and follow that example that he sets. I think the kids see the same thing.”

Saying goodbye

As Moore’s time at Columbine comes to a close, many are grappling with ways to honor his legacy.

“I want as many people wondering, asking and knowing about who Ivory Moore was,” said counselor Scott Thomas. “And it’s not even who, it’s what. It’s beyond who Ivory Moore is. It’s what … Ivory Moore stands for, what Ivory Moore gives.”

“ … That’s how you honor him is just by making sure people know,” he added.

After decades of commitment to Columbine, Moore plans to focus on his family in retirement.

His wife, Gloria, is his high school sweetheart, and together they have four children and five grandchildren. Moore knows his family sacrificed a lot because of his job.

While Moore is hopeful that his car won’t drive west towards Columbine on autopilot each morning following his retirement, he does know that Columbine will always be a part of his life.

“I’m always going to be here,” he said. “But there comes a time when you just have to come to grips with the fact that it’s time.”

For Moore, Columbine brought years of memories, growth and development. At this point, all that is left is gratitude.

“Matter-of-fact, that’s all I can say is thank you, Columbine, and I will always love Columbine,” Moore said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.