Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Was Wrong

... I do have a picture of Uncle Howard Moore with his violins. The picture below shows him and Aunt Joy holding two of his violins. It is too bad that the photo is in black and white, because the sheen of the wood finish and the subtle interplay of colors on many of his violins was really something to behold. I think the one he is holding was one of his blond-colored violins and Aunt Joy is holding the really gorgeous red one that was my favorite. One of these was probably the national grand prize winner.

I also have a copy and transcription of Uncle Howard's obituary, which has a lot more information on his second career as a violin-maker than I remembered (and it is in my genealogy program, so I have no excuse). The article makes it sound as though he only started making violins in 1978, after he retired, but he was making and selling them out of his home long before that.

Article from The Bakersfield Californian (date unknown; some time in November 1994):

“Howard Lee Moore, Violin maker, 85.

Howard Lee Moore, who turned a boyhood hobby of woodworking into a career as a gifted violin maker, has died. He was 85.

Moore, who died Tuesday at a Bakersfield convalescent hospital, made more than 100 violins during his lifetime from wood that, in some cases, had belonged to presidents or came from majestic European cathedrals.

Moore, however, never played the string instrument, and being a violin maker was really Moore’s second career.

Moore worked for 40 years as a longshoreman while he and his wife, Joy, raised a family in Wilmington, a Los Angeles County community. A few years after retirement, Moore turned his hobby into a full-time business. In 1978, he opened a shop in the 1200 block of Colbus Street where he repaired broken string instruments and sold violins he made. His wife said Moore repaired many violins for the city school district.

Moore was part of a clan of 11 children and was born in Lancaster, Texas, on Feb. 13, 1909. By the age of 7, he did his first repair work. A peg broke on his father’s violin, and Moore made another peg from a buggy spoke, according to his wife.

“He could make a violin in a week, but he couldn’t finish it, because he had to varnish it,” his widow said. “Each coat of varnish had to have four days to dry before applying the next coat.”

A feature story on Moore once appeared on a television show hosted by Roger Mudd, according to Joy Moore, adding her husband made violins from pieces of wood that belonged to famous people.

“A maple piece came from a library table that came from the White House during President James Madison’s administration,” she recalled. “Then a spruce piece came from a cathedral built in 1459 in Munich, Germany.”

“An old violin maker who was losing his sight had it and wanted Howard to buy it,” Joy Moore said.

He made violins for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He has three violins left that could sell for $2,500 each, according to his wife.

“He willed one to his great-grandson who will carry on the Moore name. He wanted to keep it in the family that way.”

Violin maker Bob Lupinek of Bakersfield met Moore about 15 years ago at a fiddler’s jamboree in north Bakersfield.

Through the years, the men encountered each other at conventions and contests sponsored by the Southern California Violin Makers Association.

“He was one of the top ten in the organization for both California and Arizona,” Lupinek said. Many violinists did not have the gift of ear for tune and tone quality that Moore had, according to Lupinek.

Moore developed arthritis and neuropathy two years ago which forced him to stop making violins. His health began to deteriorate after that.

Moore is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joy, of Bakersfield; a daughter, Joan Zuber of Walker Basin; four brothers; two sisters; four grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and one great-great grandchild.

Viewing is from 1 to 5 p.m. today at Lake Isabella Funeral Home, 5106 Lake Isabella Blvd.

The funeral services will be held 1 p.m. Monday from the Kern Valley Bible Church on Golden Spur.”


  1. Thanks, Professor Dru ... I have so many senior moments these days.