OLD PHOTO IDENTIFIED AS DR. WILLIS B. MOORE (May 15/98)

The patrician-looking gentleman stared into the distance when A. L. Hardy took his photograph near the turn of the century. The occasion was an outstanding autumn day afield and the gentleman celebrated the event by donning his best corduroy suit, a stylish hat, and having his picture taken. A dozen or so years ago I wrote a column about the old time photograph, describing the scene and elaborating on what the picture revealed about the period the gentleman lived in.

The name of the gentleman wasn’t identified on the photograph and there seemed to be no way of discovering who he was. I showed the photo to several long-time area residents and hobby historians without luck. The editor of this paper published the photo asking readers for help but no one was able to make a positive identification. I wasn’t looking in the right places, however. A file existed on the gentleman and he turned out to be a distinguished Valley Doctor who was born in Kentville.

While flipping through scrapbooks at the Kentville museum recently I came across a sheet containing a photocopy of the old photograph; beside it someone had written, “It is, indeed, Dr. W. B. Moore!”

Most current residents of this area will not recall Dr. Willis B. Moore. In his day, however, Dr. Moore was hailed as a medical pioneer and eminent practitioner. At the time of his death at the age of 84 in 1939, Dr. Moore was lauded in an editorial as “another of that band of devoted pioneers in medicine who ministered to the people of this Province in the face of hardships which, to the modern practitioner, would seem almost impossible to bear.”

The editorial referred to Dr. Moore’s distinguished medical career which spanned a period over half a century long. After graduation from Dalhousie University, Dr. Moore flirted briefly with a career as a ship’s surgeon. In 1880 Moore was appointed house surgeon at Victoria General Hospital, a post he held for three years. Following this, Dr. Moore returned to the town of his birth where he was to live and practice until his death.

“Dr. Moore was born in Kentville, son of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Moore,” his obituary of April 13 reads. “His father was for many years a member of Parliament. The youth received his education at Horton and Pictou academies before going to Dalhousie to take his M.D. degree.”

Other obituaries and salutes in Dr. Moore’s file spoke of a practice that extended well beyond Kentville even though his office and residence was located there for at least half a century. “For over 50 years Dr. Moore had practiced in Kings County,” reads one newspaper excerpt. “His untiring good nature and ability as a physician impressed all with whom he came in contact and it was said … his field of practice extended from Yarmouth to Halifax,” another reads.

“Typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, pneumonia – not even a beginning had been made in their conquest when this man began his work of ministering to the sick and injured,” another tribute said. “And there are thousands who can testify to the ability and skill which were his in spite of the universal lack of scientific knowledge.”

Dr. Willis B. Moore… distinguished, a pioneer, a long-time medical practitioner of exceptional skill and devotion, “a good citizen, a faithful doctor with widespread interests.” All are attributes of a once unidentified gentleman who posed in his Sunday best for a Hardy portrait. Isn’t it unusual, to say the least, that few remember him today.

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