With glasses perched on his head and a pipe in his teeth, Robert C. Moore was an editor at almost every major newspaper in Massachusetts over the course of more than 50 years.
Often erupting in expletives, he chided young reporters who drank “kiddie drinks” instead of straight booze, and he battled officials in Boston’s suburbs over compliance with open meeting laws.
“He really was such an inspiration, his toughness, his determination to get the story,” said Caren Bohan, domestic policy correspondent for Reuters and a former White House reporter whose first job was working for Mr. Moore at the suburban TAB newspapers chain in the late 1980s.
A rising stack of newspapers served as his filing system. A smashed sandwich and long-forgotten tie were uncovered when the pile toppled once at the Middlesex News, colleagues recalled. He usually was at his desk before anyone else arrived and was still there when everyone went home.
Mr. Moore, a longtime Sudbury resident who had been editor of the former Middlesex News and press secretary to Governor Foster Furcolo, died March 13 in the Kindred nursing home in Marlborough of complications from pneumonia. He was 92.
He also worked at the Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, the Worcester Telegram, the Lowell Sun, the Berkshire Eagle, and the Providence Journal.
Because he rarely discussed his slow halting walk, colleagues thought he might have had a bout with polio. But his family said that when he was 10, he went to an upstate New York hospital for a tonsillectomy and then was placed in traction for bowed legs.
An infection in his joints after the operation left his knees locked, and he was sent to a home for crippled children in Pittsfield.
“He didn’t walk for a year,” said his daughter Kathleen of Duluth, Ga. “They said he’d never walk, but he did learn to walk again.”
When Mr. Moore spoke of his childhood, she added, he did so without self-pity or boasting about what he overcame.
Guidance counselors at Pittsfield High School suggested he choose a trade and advised him at 16 to become an electrician’s apprentice. Mr. Moore balked and was determined to go to college.
He went to Syracuse University before dropping out to seek work at newspapers when World War II began.
In an era long before laws established rights for the disabled, Mr. Moore never mentioned the way he walked or what he had been through, and he “wasn’t soft and fuzzy,” his daughter said.
“He just wove his exterior from the knowledge that people would take him differently,” she said. “He could be very sharp-tongued, even mean. He had to be his own defender.”
Bohan recalled waiting for Mr. Moore’s critique of her first major story for the Dover-Sherborn TAB. Mr. Moore, she said, “yelled across the newsroom: ‘What the hell is this?!’ ”
He told her she had buried the news in the fifth paragraph and marshaled her over to his desk, where she sat by his side while he explained news writing.
“It’s an example of how important mentors are in journalism and how much you learn from people who take the time to nurture the talent they see in you. He did that for me. He really did,” said Bohan, who covered the Bush and Obama administrations for Reuters.
“He was tough on everybody,” said syndicated editorial cartoonist Dave Granlund, who was fresh out of the Air Force when Mr. Moore gave him his first job at the Middlesex News in 1977. “But you had to step back and look at the whole picture.”
Publishers of the TAB newspapers hired Mr. Moore in the 1980s to run their papers around Framingham.
“When I became his boss, he had been in the newspaper business longer than I had been alive,” said former TAB Newspapers editor Mark Leccese, who now is an assistant professor of journalism at Emerson College.
“He could have a temper, but he was also really, really sweet,” Leccese said. “There were some days, difficult, high-pressure newsroom days, where at the end of the day he would come by my desk and almost oft-handedly say, ‘You’re doing a good job, kid.’ Those days mean more to me today than almost any other piece of praise I got in 30-plus years in the news business.”
An only child, Mr. Moore was born in Troy, N.Y., to the former Ella Mae Coffeen and Henry Moore.
His parents separated during the Great Depression and Mr. Moore’s family said he was raised by his mother, grandmother, and “other mothers” who lived at the rooming houses where his mother, a factory worker, sometimes left him.
After World War II, he applied to Harvard College, but was rejected. He told his family that he sought a meeting with the admissions dean and talked his way into the school, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1953.
Mr. Moore was married for more than 30 years to the former Rosaleen Celia Connolly, a nurse from Halifax, Nova Scotia. She died of cancer in 1981.
They had six children, and amid daily household routines Mr. Moore entertained his children with accounts of crime stories and by quoting writers such as Thomas Mann or the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
“He was a great storyteller,” said his daughter Rosaleen of York, Maine, who marveled at his proficiency on an old Royal typewriter. “He would fly on that thing. I remember being in awe at how quickly he could type on it. It was like watching a pianist.”
A service has been held for Mr. Moore, who in addition to his two daughters leaves three other daughters, Alice of Condor, N.Y., Robin Lovell of Wells, Maine, and Tamsin of Cape Coral, Fla.; a son Declan of Hopkinton; and seven grandchildren.
Mr. Moore’s family said his proudest career accomplishment was leading the expansion of the Middlesex News, which is now the MetroWest Daily News. Circulation more than doubled during his 12 years at the paper, where he helped oversee creation of a Sunday edition and zoned local editions, and championed using the term MetroWest to give the area its own identity.
In editorials he often “went to war” crusading for compliance with open meeting laws, said Tom Moroney, Boston bureau chief for Bloomberg News, who worked for Mr. Moore at the Middlesex News in the early 1980s.
“Sometimes I would scratch my head and wonder, why do we want the executive session minutes of the dog catcher’s meeting,” Moroney said. “Bob wanted them to cough it up because they’re on the taxpayer’s dime and it’s the newspaper’s job to hold them accountable.”
Mr. Moore, he added, “was very rigorous in trying to show us the ropes. He obviously loved the business and he conveyed that to all of us.”J.M. Lawrence can be reached at email@example.com.