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An old friend had a fulfilling life

Sunday, April 06, 2003

When the Internet provided me with a Web page for Margo Moore, someone I had known 50 years ago in New York City, I was seeking information so I might get in touch with her.

Wouldn't that be fun, to walk down memory lane after all this time?

I had been asked to share memories of staying at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, which is what made me think of Marg. She was there at the same time.

It triggered a desire to know what the past 50 years had been like for this beauteous creature whom we all stared at with envy on a daily basis.

I had not talked to her since 1960. I never forgot her.

She had been in several movies and had been on pages of Vogue and Mademoiselle in the '50s. I couldn't imagine her today as a senior citizen.

I can barely imagine myself, as a matter of fact.

I assumed she had remained beautiful. That assumption turned out to be accurate.

But I wasn't prepared for what I would see on her Web page biography:

"Margo Moore: Deceased: 2000."

The wind went out of my sails.

I had forgotten life isn't always the journey we anticipate when we are young.

It isn't always like a storybook, although her life, I was to learn, had all the ingredients. Fame, joy, tragedy, disappointment, battles with illness and true love.

Never even considering we led similar lives in any way, I have learned there were coincidences.

Marg battled breast cancer for two years before she died. I was diagnosed with breast cancer the same month and year in which she died. I sighed when I realized that.

Married and divorced, she had a son, Darryl, now in his mid-40s, who lives in New York. Married and divorced, I have a son, Drew. She wanted to be a stage actress. Me, too. That's not how she wound up; nor did I.

I would learn how the tragic death of a man she was to marry in the 1970s, a movie stunt man, changed her life. She fled to San Francisco and for six years had her own portrait and photography studio.

When she returned to New York several years later, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She won that battle and later opened a candy store, The Chocolate Garden, on 79th Street.

That's when she met Joe Knedlhans. They were total opposites. He was a cop with the NYPD. She had been in movies and on the cover of Vogue. He was much younger. It never mattered.

He shared things with me about their 18-year marriage and sent me the touching and detailed eulogy her brother wrote for her memorial service.

Just three months before she died, the couple had opened The Toy Robot and Pig Museum in Stoudtburg Village, Lancaster County.

It's an odd name, to be sure (Pig has now been dropped from the name), but basically very simple to explain: Joe collected more than 3,500 toy robots over the years, and Marg collected some 1,300 pig items because, she said, "they're cute." When they decided to settle in this rural area, where they often went antiquing on weekends, the museum idea struck them.

Before moving to Adamstown, Marg had been on the staff of Working Woman magazine. Her husband told me that was the most satisfying work of her life.

Joe, of course, knew little of the days I was recalling, when his wife and the rest of us were 20 and looking for fame and fortune.

In the most recent snapshots he shared with me, from 1997, she appeared no older than when I knew her. It was amazing.

When Marg had a mammogram in July 1998, she was given a clean bill of health. That November, she discovered a lump in her breast. She had a double mastectomy in March 1999 after months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor prior to surgery.

From then on, she recommended that women also have sonograms because her mammogram had missed her tumor. It's worth noting.

She lost the gorgeous hair that brought her many commercials for hair products (she was a Toni girl) when she was a model. It had started to grow back, and she was feeling well.

Then in February 2000, she had dizzy spells. A brain scan showed tumors, so more surgery.

She recovered, but within a few months the dizziness returned. She was given perhaps three months.

She was 69 when she died. She would have been 72 on April 29.

So far, I've been luckier than Marg, as have many of us. We're still here.

I never thought I would be saying that. I always felt she had all the luck.

None of us has it all.

Ask for the breast cancer stamp at your post office. It costs a few pennies more (45 cents), but those extra pennies have totaled $29.5 million for research since 1998.

Barbara Cloud can be reached atbcloud@post-gazette.com .

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