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Mary Tyler Moore, family had local connections

By MARY STORTSTROM

The Journal

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Actress Mary Tyler Moore and her family share a connection with Shepherdstown — and Shepherd University — that university officials say will last for years to come.

Mary Tyler Moore is shown at the George Tyler Moore Center for the study of the Civil War at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown.
(Submitted photo)

Moore died Wednesday at age 80. She was best-known for appearing on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and later starring in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” but the actress left a local legacy behind.

In September 1995, Moore purchased the historic Conrad Shindler House and donated it to the Shepherd University Foundation to be used by the university as a center for Civil War studies. The house, built in the 1790s, was owned by Shindler, who was Moore’s great-great-great-grandfather.

When Moore purchased the Shindler House, she named it after her father, George Tyler Moore, as the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War.

Monica Lingenfelter with the Shepherd University Foundation said George Tyler Moore was very interested in studying the Civil War–as was Moore’s husband–so the purchase, donation and purpose of the building seemed like a perfect fit.

“I actually used to write letters, longhand, back-and-forth with George Tyler Moore,” Lingenfelter said. “I found out (Mary Tyler Moore) spent part of her summers in Sharpsburg, Maryland and Shepherdstown while she was growing up because she had extended family in the area.”

Lingenfelter said she met Moore, and would sometimes get friendly phone calls from her and was treated like a friend.

“I was a little starstruck when I met her because she was an icon. I grew up watching her on TV,” she said. “I tended to communicate with her mostly by phone for a few years. She had a very distinctive voice, and I was charmed to pick up the phone and hear, ‘Hello, Monica, this is Mary.’ She was ladylike and professional, but she was also very warm and informal. She was down-to-Earth.”

Lingenfelter said when Moore and her husband moved, Moore wanted to retrieve some family portraits that were hanging in the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War to hang in their home. Lingenfelter said Moore said she would return the paintings, but noticed they needed much restoration.

“A local artist meticulously restored these paintings, sometimes with brushes no wider than an eyelash,” Lingenfelter said. “The frames were also restored. The artist personally delivered the paintings to Moore’s home because she told me, ‘This is something so irreplaceable, you don’t just want to put it on a FedEx truck.’”

According to Valerie Owens, executive director of university communications at Shepherd, Moore was Shepherd’s commencement speaker in 1996 and was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.

The following message was posted on Shepherd University’s official Facebook page Wednesday afternoon:

“Shepherd University mourns the loss of actress and philanthropist Mary Tyler Moore. In 1995, Moore donated her great, great, great grandfather’s home–the Conrad Shindler House–to the Shepherd University Foundation to serve as the home of the Civil War Center. In May 1996, Moore delivered Shepherd’s commencement address and presented a key to the house at a ceremony renaming the Center the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, in honor of her father.”

Outside of Shepherdstown and Shepherd University, Moore’s family also has connections to a historic property in Winchester, Virginia–Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters.

The building belonged to Moore’s great-grandfather, Col. Lewis T. Moore, and now serves as a Civil War museum.

Lingenfelter said Moore and her family left a long-lasting legacy.

“Her father was a wonderful man; he was a real gentleman, but I guess that’s the kind of person who has such a lovely, generous and philanthropic daughter,” she said. “They have left their mark on Shepherd University.”

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