By Michael NorrisAugust 17, 2012
As we've become a more transient society, following school, jobs or the American dream from one part of the country to another, we've grown less rooted in the communities we live in. There might be a nod or wave to a neighbor as you glimpse each other sweeping the porch, mowing the lawn or moving from house to car for the daily commute, but for the most part, you live your lives independently of each other.
Staff Sgt. C. Dale Moore, a trombonist with The U.S. Army Band, and Diana Conaway, a Marine widow, have lived in the same Stafford County, Va., neighborhood for awhile; he for three years and she for seven. They didn't have a lot of interaction until "snowmageddon," a severe winter storm which blew through the Washington, D.C., region in February 2010.
"She graciously allowed me to borrow her snow blower," said Moore. After that the two informally kept an eye on each other's houses when one went on vacation or collected accumulating mail. "We [occasionally] said 'hi' to each other and he brought firewood to my house when it was really, really cold," Conaway recalled.
Moore had noticed how Conaway's porch was in disrepair. One day, about three weeks ago, he saw her remove a wobbly railing; afraid a visitor might lose support and hurt themselves. He offered his services and volunteered to fix Conaway's porch.
"It was heartwarming to me that he would do this," said Conaway. "I've never had someone come out to help me like that before. It brought tears to my eyes."
She said Moore first gave her a "guestimate" of how long the project would take and how much it might cost. "He bought everything and gave me all the receipts," she said. "I thought it was going to take longer than it did. I told him, "you have a Family and you have to go to work each day.'"
The project took a week and a half to build, said Moore, putting in time weekends and a couple of hours each day after work. He reckons having put in 75 to 80 man-hours altogether on the project, from loading the materials in his pick-up truck to pounding the final nail.
"He worked in the rain and the heat," said Conaway.
"It was probably the original porch from 1991," Moore speculated, citing the vintage of homes in his Aquia Harbour community.
Moore used most of his own equipment to complete the project, including jig, table, mitre and circular saws as well as drills, screwdrivers and other odds and ends.
"I never saw so many gadgets," Conaway said.
A musician has to be careful to protect his hands. Accidently hammering a finger could affect his livelihood and ability to play music. Conscious of safety, Moore made sure to wear gloves and hearing protection through the project.
"I took my time. I didn't want to rush it," he said, explaining how he gets satisfaction from seeing something that's "constructed well that you know is going to last awhile."
Conaway said Moore was methodical and detailed in his craftsmanship. "He was really into the job like he was getting paid for it," she said.
Moore, who has been with TUSAB for eight years, does most of his own home repairs.
"I've made bookcases, tables … I made my little girls' doll beds," he said. "I don't make all my own stuff. If it's too difficult I'll have someone else do it."
"I've fixed other porches in the past," Moore said. "Doing it wasn't all that hard." He said he's teamed up at times with other band members to fix, rebuild or tear down each other's carports, decks and other home improvement projects.
Sgt. Steve Holder, who works in administration for TUSAB and recently moved to the Stafford area, even lent Moore a hand fixing the porch one afternoon.
While Moore's daughters Kaitlyn, 4, and Anna, 6, ventured out once or twice to see what was occupying their daddy's time, he said he kept them away from the work site because he didn't want them around the saws.
Moore credited his wife Sally, who keeps her own "honey do" list, for letting him take on the project. "If my wife was in the same situation, I would hope someone would help her," the staff sergeant said. "If everyone would look out for their neighbor, the world would be so much better," Conaway said, explaining how she contacted Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall officials about Moore's exemplary actions. "I want the military to celebrate this young man because he is wonderful -- wonderful! He is just so humble."