In his youth, Matt Moore was known as “JoJo.” The nickname was given to him at birth by his grandmother, who likened the newborn’s striking shock of hair to the stylish cut known by that name.
In adulthood, Matt Moore was known as an inspirational motivator and paragon of courage whose quadriplegic paralysis from a calamitous rugby injury somehow seemed to lift him rather than disable his fighting spirit.
Despite being immobilized below the shoulders, confining him to a wheelchair for the past 30 years, the gifted mentor shared his wisdom teaching physical education and health. He did a lot of other things too after the accident, his faith never flagging, always serving as a source of inspiration for others, who looked up to him in a wheelchair that might as well have been a saint’s throne, so fervent were his legion of followers.
Matthew H. “JoJo” Moore passed Jan. 17, 2022, from complications due to his spinal injury.
His coaching of wrestlers in Westchester and Putnam counties – at Peekskill, Walter H. Panas, and Putnam Valley high schools – is the stuff of legend. He was a beloved coach who made a lasting impact on and off the mat in the lives of his wrestlers. One of his Peekskill grapplers, Kendall Cross, went on to win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Coach Moore was inducted to the Section 1 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1997.
His 1989 Peekskill team won the Section 1 championship, with two members of the team finishing as undefeated section champs. Then, in September 1991, everything changed for him, his family and his far-reaching fan base.
While in a game for the White Plains Rugby Club, where he played 20-plus years, Moore collided head first with a teammate, crushing a vertebra of his spinal cord in the neck.
That “freak accident,” as he called it, two days later brought 1,000 people to Depew Park in Peekskill for a prayer vigil. As a Deacon of First Baptist Church in Peekskill, where he also taught Sunday School, his devout faith was a major reason he and his family – wife Marguerite (“Peggy”) and daughters Marissa, Melanie, Michelle, Meaghan – persevered through the unthinkable ordeal. Their extended family includes Cortlandt Hook and Ladder, where Matt was a volunteer.
A glance at his Facebook page reflects the love and esteem that gravitated to the man with a virtual halo that beatified his soul. Chappy Manzer, prominent Peekskill businessman and philanthropist who was the last Section 1 champ coached by Moore, wrote, “He was a coach, a mentor, and a friend. He taught me to never give up. I still use [his] saying, positive attitude produces positive outcome. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for some of the lessons Mr. Moore taught me.”
“Doctors never thought he’d make it this far,” Peggy Moore told River Journal North. “He was an amazing guy. He never complained. I don’t know how people endure without faith and hope and God.”
Hope for Youth Foundation is establishing a scholarship in Matt Moore’s name. In lieu of flowers, donations to fund the scholarship can be sent to P.O. Box 8, Buchanan, NY 10511. For more information, visit hfyf,org.
The family is planning a public memorial service at Peekskill’s Depew Park that it hopes will take place on June 17, 2022, which would have been Coach Moore’s 75th birthday. A video of the Jan. 22 private funeral service can be viewed at youtu.be/yARYeLmh1cQ.