Prior to the Wall Street Journal recognizing Ann Moore as one of the nation’s most influential inventors, and before she met the love of her life, Mike, Ann treasured growing up on her family’s Ohio chicken farm where music and love created a cohesive lifestyle.
“My parents were Dunkards, which is an old order of German Baptist, similar to the Amish,” Ann reveals. “The men wore broad-brimmed hats and the women wore bonnets, but we were allowed conveniences such as cars and electricity. We were excommunicated when I was in the third grade, when Daddy purchased a radio to listen to farm reports, but our family never swayed from our love and devotion to family values, and friends remained friends.”
Denver-raised and third-generation Coloradan Mike Moore moved with his family to Grand Junction when he was in the fourth grade, then went on to attend Phillips Academy – Andover before graduating from Yale. “Mike’s dad, also a Yale graduate with a degree in architecture, was the one and only architect on the Western Slope for several years. Mike’s mother completed finishing school in Italy.”
Culturally, Mike and Ann experienced contrasting childhoods, but both of their parents instilled the importance of a college education and serving others. “When I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor’s in Nursing and Health, I immediately accepted a post at Columbia University in New York to teach pediatric nursing for five years. During that time, I participated in two Quaker sponsored work camps. My first was when an earthquake hit Morocco and killed more than 17,000 Moroccans and injured another 12,000, and the second experience was going to Germany to help with refugees from eastern Germany. Both experiences deepened my awareness that, regardless of our cultural, political or religious experiences, we are one big human family.”
When President Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, thousands of young Americans answered his call to volunteer. “I was applicant No. 33 to apply for the Peace Corps, and five of us from Babies Hospital (New York’s oldest hospital dedicated to the care of children and infants) joined a medical team of 20 comprised of lab techs, nurses, and surgical and sanitation teams. Our destination was Togo, West Africa, and I was excited to teach nutritional courses,” explains Ann.
Another team of pivotal importance was headed to Togo with Ann’s: the teaching team. Mike Moore was on that team, and Cupid was armed and ready. “Our first day of training, Mike walked in playing a guitar. I was instantly smitten,” declares Ann with a look of love that never wanes. Six weeks following, Mike and Ann were engaged. They wanted to marry before they left for Togo, so two weeks following their engagement, standing before a minister and 400 Dunkards in the front yard of Ann’s childhood home, Mike and Ann became one soul. The Whiffenpoofs of Yale, the nation’s oldest a cappella ensemble, of which Mike was a member, sang at their reception, held in the completely cleaned out and sanitized chicken house, proving you don’t have to be birds of the same feather to flock together. Love united the Moore’s unique blend of wedding guests and certainly blessed them with the forever kind of love.
When the Moores arrived in Togo, Ann instantly noticed Togo moms carried their babies in kanga cloth that was tied in a traditional sling carry pattern, which allowed the moms total use of their hands. She also observed Togo babies seldom cried because they were in close contact with their moms, napping when on their backs or securely nursing when nestled in front. Returning from Africa in 1964, with little money and a baby soon expected, they moved in with Mike’s parents at their Humbolt Street home in Denver. Mike accepted the post as executive director of Denver Opportunity, the War on Poverty Community Action Agency, and when their daughter, Mandela (named for Nelson Mandela), arrived, she took away the breath of her parents as she drew her first.
Newborn Mande was carried out of the hospital strapped to her mom’s back with a traditional kanga cloth, but Ann quickly decided she needed something a little more secure. With inspiration guiding her, and her mom, Lucy Aukerman, assisting her, Ann designed an adjustable, pouch-like infant carrier. They named and patented it Snugli, and word-of-mouth demand and clamor caught a consumer report that nationally dubbed it “the soft baby carrier to have.” Ann and her mom turned to the Dunkard church women (who make all of their clothes because they don’t wear “worldly” clothes) to help in filling the growing demand. “At one time, there were about 150 farm women sewing the Snuglis. We created a cottage industry. We so appreciated the skill of the Dunkard women, and they were happy for the extra income. We often took sales reps from all over the country to our Snugli farm in Ohio to meet these great seamstresses and their families. I am always excited for people from very different backgrounds to meet because they find and share common threads of life,” Ann says. Ann also designed a portable oxygen carrier that led to their second venture, Airlift. And after Snugli was purchased, they eventually created Weego, derived from the idea “wherever I go, we go.”
Just before the dawn of the Snugli success, and needing to find a home of their own, Ann and Mike asked their realtor to find a home within a 30-mile radius of Denver, preferring to be on the west side of town. She found a treasure near the top of Kerr Gulch and daughters Nicole and Hopi soon joined the family. In addition to the original bungalow from the 1930s, there was a small, one-room cinderblock structure that originally served as a stagecoach stop between Morrison and Idaho Springs in the late 1880s or 1890s. The original home has been remodeled several times and now houses Nicole’s family. A second, energy-efficient, sustainable home that the Moores built in 2009 now graces the land.
Music, love and a passion for nature and people continues to unite the family. Often dubbed the Moore Family Singers, their musicality blends voices and instruments. Baroque Folke is an Evergreen holiday tradition you don’t want to miss on December 18 at 7 pm at Center Stage Evergreen. It is there you will witness the magical, sustainable and everlasting love between Mike and Ann, which you will behold wherever you happen to see them!