Robert Moree longed for the day he would be commissioned as an officer after graduating from Temple and its ROTC program in two years.
His older brother William and sister-in-law are both enlisted in the Navy and Moree always teased them about the day they would eventually have to salute him in uniform.
But Moree never lived to see that day.
Moree, 19, died Oct. 7 following a car accident near his home in Northeast Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at Einstein Hospital after the car he was driving crossed lanes on Tabor Road and crashed into a parked tractor trailer.
“They saluted him the day of his funeral,” said Kim, his older sister and a Temple transfer student.
The cause of his death is still under investigation.
More than 400 friends and familymembers attended the funeral services at Campbell funeral homes in the Richmond-Lawndale area. Most people waited an hour in a line that stretched outside and around the funeral home. The Moree family never had a chance to sit down. Past and current classmates, co-workers and ROTC cadets came to show their support and pay their respects. The weekend following the funeral, Moree’s parents heard his favorite song, Uncle Cracker’s “Follow Me,” three times on the airwaves.
Four weeks after their son’s death, the Moree family sat at the dinner table and reminisced about his life; from the time he was born, Aug. 20, 1984, to the day he made the Ranger Challenge team shortly before his death.
“He never made it home to tell us,” Kim said. “He didn’t think he was going to make it because he wasn’t the strongest or fastest and was afraid he would get cut. He found out that day, and we didn’t even know it until the ROTC told us.”
Moree’s mother, Donna, added that he “set his goals, but I know at one point he said if he could just do the ROTC all day and not go to classes it would make him happy, because he really liked doing that.”
But Moree excelled in the classroom and graduated Northeast High School in 2002. He ranked No. 10 out of nearly 1,000 students. He was also a member of the National Honors Society.
Even with his studies, he found time for fun.
With the exception of X-Box, he owned every major video game system and regularly played Dune, Zelda and other mind-boggling games. But when the school year approached, the only action his video games received was from a dust rag.
He majored in Biology while at Temple and wanted to go to medical school to become a doctor.
“That was the only thing he wanted to be,” Donna said. “He never mentioned anything else.”
Donna still has a hard time sitting at the dinner table without remembering her youngest child sitting across from her. And she hasn’t even attempted to enter his bedroom and revisit the memories still fresh in her mind.
The Moree family will always remember the vacations to Mississippi to visit relatives or the trips to North Wildwood, where Moree polished his skills for the intermediate swimming class he took this semester. He was never a big fan of the sand, Donna said, but while in the water, he could be seen with a grin from ear to ear.
“I videoed him swimming, so that next year when we come down to the shore we can see the progress he made,” Donna said. “But we’ll never get to see the progress.”
There was so much more Moree was supposed to do, like see Matrix Revolutions with his father, Bill Moree, watch his curly-haired 21-month-old niece, Angelina, grow up, or finish reading the new “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” books.
People who call or stop by the Moree residence comment on how Moree could always be seen with a smile on his face. Donna said he was the type not afraid to kiss her in public. He played peacemaker in the household and could often be found with his nose buried in a book in the annex of Ritter Hall.
Moree’s sister is hoping he’ll walk through the door and everything will be back to normal. His parents are hoping this is all a nightmare and will eventually wake up and see their son.
But the memories are all that remain.
“He was everything you would want someone to be,” his father said. “A father and mother always want their kids to do better than them and he surpassed me by my wildest dreams. He’s probably an angel now.
Knowing him, he’s probably up there helping someone.”
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.