NEVER TOO LATE
A lifetime love of reading and writing has led Muncy native Phyllis Moore to join the ranks of published authors, and she has more than eight decades of experiences from which to find inspiration.
“The advantage of writing so late in life is that I have had so many different experiences and have met so many diverse people that it helps me write my stories,” said Moore, 81, who now lives near Erie.
She was born on Jan. 6, 1933, to Lewis and Florence Blue Heberling and was the youngest of five children. Raised on a farm, Moore loved playing with the barnyard kittens and learned how to drive her father’s team of horses.
She remembers being 7 years old and tagging along beside her father, who was using a horse to plow the family garden.
“I was tramping along beside him, talking a mile-a-minute,” she said. “Suddenly, he stopped the horse and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the horse’s back. I was never quite sure if it was to keep me quiet or that he thought I would enjoy it. Actually, I think it was the latter.”
Three years later, she really had the reins in her hands.
“All the young men were off to war – World War II – and I drove the team while Dad loaded the wagon with hay,” Moore said. “Then, later in the summer, (we harvested) oats and wheat and, in the fall, corn. The two of us got all the crops in ourselves for two summers.”
But she credits her mother for nurturing her love of literature by reading stories to her.
“My mother read to me when I was in bed for three months with rheumatic fever,” Moore said. “I remember she read until her voice gave out, every day.”
Florence also encouraged her daughter to work on her spelling prior to writing.
“I had told my mother that I wanted to write stories, and her response was, ‘then you will have to learn to spell.’ Spelling was difficult for me at that time (in second grade), so I didn’t mention it again. But, it did motivate me in spelling,” Moore said.
As she got older, she put her active imagination to use, writing Nancy Drew-type mysteries for her friends in elementary school.
By high school, Moore was interested in journalism. She joined the Journalism Club in high school and also worked with her older sister, Virginia, at the Muncy Luminary.
“She was office manager and wrote the wedding articles,” Moore said. “I was only in my early teens and did odd jobs: folding the newspapers as they came off the press in one large sheet, putting together booklets for raffles, etc. and any other jobs that came along that I could do.”
It was a taste of the newspaper business that only whetted her interested in writing.
She had various other local jobs after she graduated, then met Frank Morse, of Warrensville, when he was home on leave from the Navy. They married and eventually had three children – son Dennis and daughters Annette and Robin.
Though Moore’s primary job then was caring for her family, which moved to Mill Hall, she enrolled in a home-based journalism course.
“It was this course that got me a job later at the Lock Haven Express,” she said.
In 1966, Moore applied for a job in the Express’ circulation department but instead was recruited by then-editor Rebecca Gross, who asked her to be a stringer and attend council and school board meetings on a freelance basis.
Months later, Gross offered her a full-time position as a reporter.
“I took it with pleasure,” Moore said.
Over the years, she held other jobs, some of which combined her interest in education and children and another that involved Lock Haven’s dike-levee project. But life had a cruel plan for Moore and her family. Her youngest daughter, Robin, died in a car crash in Florida, and her husband, Frank, suffered a heart attack and later succumbed to an aneurysm.
Three years after that loss, Moore packed up her bags, retired and moved to Erie, where her daughter Annette lived. In her early 60s, Moore start-
ed working for a community newspaper, attending meetings and reporting on municipal happenings. She “wrote” the articles on a typewriter until her son Dennis gave her a computer.
“I was definitely excited to get the computer,” Moore said, “as I had learned the basics at my last job in Lock Haven and found it was so much easier to write on a computer. Mistakes didn’t require erasing … or whole pages retyped; just a couple key strokes was all it took.
“Denny had taught me what I needed to know about using the computer in my job with the flood control project. He made a special trip from California after his dad’s death to help me learn about it,” she added.
With the new computer and access to the Internet, Moore began corresponding with other grandmothers. Some of her pen pals were men and one of them, Norval, also had endured the loss of a child.
Moore corresponded with Norval for a time, then they married, but lived separately while Norval cared for his elderly mother in West Virginia. In time, the pair – actually a trio, as Norval’s mom came, too – moved into a house in Erie.
In the years since then, Moore kept busy with a variety of activities. She liked walking and hiking, traveling, painting, playing the piano and gardening.
And, of course, reading.
“My adventures in reading take me many places – England, Africa, France, South America, British Columbia … I told my daughter that, two days ago, I was in Africa (reading ‘Congo’) and today I’m in (17th century) England,” she said. “I read a dozen or more fiction novels a month and have read a wide range of authors.”
Some of her favorites are John Grisham, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, Mary Higgans Clark, Debbie Macomber and Maeve Binchy.
Knowing her own love for writing and storytelling, Moore’s family urged her to put her imagination in print.
She finished her first book in 2008 when she was 75. Titled “Maxi’s Choice,” it tells the story of heroine Maxine Taylor, who works as a relocation specialist, just as Moore herself was during the levee project in Lock Haven.
“The underlying message in ‘Maxi’s Choice’ is that we always have a choice,” Moore said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a choice at all, but it is. I have had experiences where I was ready to give up – when my youngest daughter was killed in an auto accident at age 23. In a 10-year span, I buried, my mother, my daughter, both my sisters, a brother-in-law and, finally, my husband.”
Her grandaughter, Megan Pfeffer, painted the Victorian mansion on the novel’s cover.
Soon afterward, those who read the book clamored for more, and Moore began work on a sequel. This time, she painted the cover herself.
“Hummingbird Hill” was completed shortly before her 80th birthday.
“I urge people who have a dream of doing something, to not give up because they think they are past the age to do it. Keep on doing what you can. It’s the doing that is the fun,” Moore said. “I would like to encourage seniors to keep doing whatever they are capable of doing, that it is even possible to accomplish a childhood dream.”