Britain is still in a state of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Moore’s milestone birthday brought widespread celebration. The veteran, who served in India during World War II, was honored with a flyby above his home in Bedfordshire, 50 miles north of London, as Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes.
The Royal Mail service issued a special postmark, stamping letters with his name and birth date, while children and others nationwide made and sent him more than 150,000 birthday cards, which are being displayed in the hall of his grandson’s school. A railway train was named after him, street art featuring Moore’s face popped up across the country, and a special birthday message was displayed on a giant screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus.
But perhaps the greatest gift of all: an honorary promotion from captain to colonel.
Moore, who was born in 1920, called his promotion “the icing on the cake.” Taking to Twitter, the Defense Ministry wrote: “In recognition of his incredible fundraising achievements for @NHSuk charities, @captaintommoore has been appointed as the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, Harrogate.”
“His mature wisdom, no-nonsense attitude and humour in adversity make him an inspirational role model to generations young and old,” said the British army’s chief of the general staff. Moore was also given a Second World War Defense Medal to replace the one he had lost earlier.
Moore’s rise to stardom and to the ranks of a national treasure began in early April when he set out to raise 1,000 pounds (nearly $1,250) for the health service and its staff by walking the 82-foot length of his garden back and forth 100 times, using his walker for support. He sought to complete the laps ahead of his birthday April 30.
But just 24 hours after Moore started, he had shattered his target, raising the equivalent of $8,750. From then on, the donations grew — as did news of his ambitious fundraising efforts. Moore increased his goal to a quarter-million pounds and carried on walking. What followed was a staggering wave of support from around the world, with more than 1 million people giving money to support his goal — an act that sparked his JustGiving page to crash countless times in recent weeks.
Moore completed his final lap two weeks ahead of schedule, and the figure hit $15 million. Even today, it continues to climb. All money raised will go to a group of charities that help support the chronically underfunded health-care system as it fights to beat back a virus that has killed more than 26,000 people in the United Kingdom.
His fundraising page is set to close at midnight April 30, local time.
In recent days, Moore added another string to his bow: a No. 1 U.K. hit single, with a recording of the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” shattering another record as he became the oldest artist to reach the official No. 1 position in the music charts.
On Thursday, Johnson issued a video message on Twitter that directly addressed the newly titled honorary colonel. “Your heroic efforts have lifted the spirits of an entire nation,” the prime minister said. He thanked the veteran for becoming a “point of light in all our lives.”
Moore spent the day waving at helicopters, doing television interviews and posing for photographs holding a telegram he received from the queen — a royal birthday wish that any resident turning 100 is eligible for.
“100 years young today,” Moore wrote on social media Thursday. “Today will be a good day.”