By Larry Minear
Jonathan Moore has had a life-long love affair with Cape Cod. Growing up in suburban Boston in the 1940s, he and his siblings spent every possible moment at their family place in Orleans. “We beat a path between our cottage on Town Cove and our grandparents’ home next to Ice House Pond,” Moore recalls. “We lived the Cape’s beauty and bounty firsthand and treasured its magic.”
Assignments with the U.S. government, the United Nations, and academia have taken Moore away to Washington and abroad. But he has always kept one foot firmly anchored on the Cape, which has given him a strong sense of place despite his many comings and goings. This portrait sketches Moore’s life, based on interviews with him, his family, and friends and on my professional association and friendship with him across the decades.
“When I showed up at the ‘house by the pond’ in 1932,” Moore recalls, “I was quickly baptized by my parents in the Nauset surf. “ His extended family was a large one. One sister, Lydia, still resides in Orleans. Another, Deborah Geithner, lived here until her death a year ago. His brother Benjamin is a regular visitor from Seattle. His grandfather was Charles F. Moore, Sr., born in Eastham; his grandmother hailed from Harwich. His parents Addie and Charley Moore were committed to having their children enjoy the natural world. Jonathan opted to use “his” acre of Wayland land to grow prize-winning corn. His best friend was his pony Gendale.
In those days the Cape was largely rural and he and his pals had the run of it. They organized outings through field and forest. They explored Nauset Marsh and the islands in Pleasant Bay. Jonathan slept in a tent pitched on his parents’ property.. He served as assistant to the Orleans shellfish constable. Looking back, he says “the Cape encourages getting as much out of it as possible. How could you not respond?”
Moore now lives in Weston with his wife Katie, continuing their Cape trips as time and health permit. “Orleans is a hometown for us in a way that suburban Boston is not,” he says. This past summer he lined up relatives and friends to assist him (he now gets around on two poles). in immersing himself in the waters off Snow’s Shore. “This most recent swim was really precious,” he recalls. “The exhilaration was exquisite. ”
Threads in the tapestry
Between immersions early and late lies a lifetime rich in accomplishment and enjoyment. The tapestry has many threads, but three are particularly noteworthy.
One was international. In 1957, Dartmouth bachelor’s degree and Harvard master’s degree in public administration in hand, he joined the U.S. Information Agency. His initial stint at its administrative headquarters introduced him to the workaday world in the nation’s capitol. USIA posted him to India — he and his wife Katie were married three days before setting out – and then to Liberia. They have four grown children.
With the Moores’ return from Liberia in 1959, a second thread emerges: a commitment to Cape Cod. Jonathan returned to the States to join the staff of Senator Leverett Saltonstall (R-MA), helping plan and launch what in 1961 became the Cape Cod National Seashore. “We worked to fight it through Congress to President Kennedy for signing,” he recalls. “The politics were complicated, the competing interests intense. The Feds, the Congress, the Commonwealth, and the Lower Cape towns came together and the Seashore was created.” Working on the undertaking in Washington and Boston “brought me back and held me on the Cape.” Membership on the Seashore’s public advisory committee further ensured his ongoing involvement. “I was so lucky,” he says.
The Moore family is strongly committed to preserving the Cape’s beauty. Jonathan’s parents (the town skating rink bears his father’s name) donated wooded land in the early 1970s to the newly formed Orleans Conservation Trust. Jonathan and his siblings made a further donation of two parcels of their parents’ original land. More recently, Jonathan and his wife have protected their own land with a conservation restriction. He expresses great satisfaction that the land donated “remains largely as it was and will stay that way.”
A third thread involves a commitment to public service and education. This was evident in his work on the 1968 presidential campaigns of George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller. During the 1970s and 1980s he held positions in a variety of federal agencies, including the departments of Health, Education and Welfare, Defense, and State. For a time he was U.S. Coordinator and Ambassador at Large for Refugee Affairs, playing a major role in the U.S. resettlement of Indochinese refugees. I recall interviewing Ambassador Moore in the mid-1980s at the U.S. Mission across First Avenue from UN headquarters.
His resume is dotted with high-level assignments. As Associate Attorney General, he left in October 1973 when his boss, Elliot Richardson, resigned during Watergate in protest against Richard Nixon’s firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. He served on advisory groups related to health and human services, criminal justice, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
Scores of institutions and individuals seek him out. He served for twelve years as director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and lecturer at the J.F. Kennedy School of Government. One senior UN official recalls his contribution to the UN’s work in China and Haiti and in societies seeking to pick up the pieces after civil wars. She remembers him for his wisdom and as someone who prefers to work step by step
behind the scenes rather than embracing more headline-getting strategies. In the late 90s, Moore was sought out by the respected International Committee of the Red Cross to produce an anthology, Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention. More recently his voice has been heard on NPR and in the Boston Globe. [
Moore at 83
Conversations with Jonathan are rich in reminiscence and often laced with flashes of humor, impishness, self-deprecation, and profanity. Clearly the professional challenges have been far more rich and diverse than his Wikipedia entry conveys. Surveying his various assignments — from caring for Orleans shellfish to advising senior US and UN policy-makers — he marvels at what he sees as his great good fortune, as if he had had little to do with it himself. “I kept showing up in places that kept turning out to be educational and rewarding. This is what life is supposed to be, isn’t it, — an adventure?”
-Larry Minear, a retired researcher and writer, lives in Orleans and is a member of the Orleans Pond Coalition Board.