PART-TIME HILTON HEAD RESIDENT TRADED IN STRESSFUL TV CAREER FOR HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE
Photographer, TV producer and documentarian Don Moore laid eyes on his first TV in high school in the mid-1950s, and he knew then he wanted to be a part of whatever was happening on that tiny 4-inch screen.
“I said ‘I want to do that,’” says Moore, who turns 80 this month.
Through connections, twists of fate and a lot of talent and hard work, the Connecticut native spent his early adulthood working his way up the ranks — first as a page at NBC-TV in New York City right out of high school, then moving up to producer and director of local newscasts, live television events and investigative documentaries for a CBS affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut, by 1967.
“I have to tell stories,” says Moore, who lives on Hilton Head Island part-time with his wife of 57 years, Suzanne.
He won an Emmy Award in the 1960s for “To Be Somebody,” a documentary about unemployment and underemployment, and later received the Edward R. Murrow Award for documentary direction for live shows for a news piece dealing with youth, aging and adult parenting. But the highlight Moore points to from his TV career came in 1969, when he contributed a segment from Mystic, Connecticut, for CBS as part of its coverage of Apollo 11, the first successful moon landing.
“Even though it was a small piece, we did it. It’s part of history,” Moore says. “History is something that has always fascinated me.”
Moore walked away from the grind of TV news due to health issues just as his career was taking off.
“I was supposed to die in 1971. That’s why I left television,” he says of his stress-related heart issues. “The doctor said ‘You have two weeks to live, so get out of the stress and go someplace.’”
So in 1972, the Moores moved with their two small children to rural Maine, where Suzanne had inherited a house. But although he was ready for a change in pace and a healthier lifestyle, Moore wasn’t ready to leave storytelling behind.
“When I left television I bought the editing equipment, so I took an entire editing system from Hartford to Maine and put it in a room in case I ever needed it,” he says.
And eventually he did, scoring freelance gigs shooting and editing videos and documentaries, first for the U.S. Army and Navy and later for outlets including ESPN, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Outdoor Life Network.
“I’d go away for two weeks, shoot for two weeks, come home and edit for two weeks, then go off to the next assignment,” he says.
Moore also helped a colleague start a niche magazine, Wild Fibers, which took him to exotic locales in Scotland, India, South America and Alaska, among others.
In 1996, he and his wife visited Hilton Head Island for the first time and saw its immediate potential as a part-time home, both for its climate and for its photogenic qualities. Now they spend winters in their Port Royal Plantation home, and head back up to Maine each May.
Moore, who takes pictures and films video every day, keeps lots of framed prints of his work in both houses.
“An artist told me, ‘Don, you must live with your work.’ So in my bedrooms I always have a lot of pictures that we’ve done because you’re supposed to live with your work,” he says. “And it does help because you get up every morning and you say, ‘I’ve done all of this. Now I need to do more.’”