“I’ve never met anyone with such a zest for life.”
That’s how local artist Shane Warner described his friend Tom Moorefield, a Wrightsville Beach resident who passed away at his home on May 24.
“He had so much energy, and such a great heart,” Warner said. “No one who met him ever left without a smile.”
Warner was one of about 50 loved ones who hopped on their boards for a sunset paddle out in Moorefield’s honor on Friday evening.
“We had to honor him in the ocean,” said his college roommate and one of his best friends, Michael Kotsopoulos, who helped organize the event. “Everything revolved around board sports and the water for him. It was the only way to send him off.”
The paddle out was the last portion of a day full of activities in Moorefield’s honor that included a memorial at Shell Island Resort in the morning and a cookout outside South End Surf Shop before the group hit the water.
“This [beach day]felt like something good to do for him, to help us remember the positive things that Tom loved,” said Hunter Hay, another friend and former housemate. “When he was at the beach, he wasn’t just sitting there. He was always looking to do some sort of activity and have a good time, and he wanted everyone around him to enjoy themselves as much as he did.”
Moorefield’s love for life and his impact on those around him was evident in the crowd that gathered to remember him near Access 17, just south of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. In addition to the paddlers, a group of 25 to 30 family and friends stayed on shore to watch. Many tossed flowers in the water for Moorefield, and a painting was brought out for people to sign and leave messages.
Moorefield was found in his Greensboro Street home on May 24. Wrightsville Beach police said the medical examiner hadn’t ruled on cause. On the Facebook page for his memorial service, the family said they believed Moorefield was using over-the-counter medication to curb his addiction, which is believed to have caused his death.
“What we want people to know is that he was happy, upbeat about where his life was headed and was drug free (he was randomly having to take drug tests). What we didn’t know is that he was continuing to try to battle his addiction on his own. We are devastated,” the Facebook page said.
While there were tears and somber faces, as many were still in shock over Moorefield’s sudden and unexpected death, there were also smiles and plenty of hugs and good vibes.
“We’re trying to remember the positive things Tom loved,” Hay said. “I think everybody really remembers how excited he was on a daily basis to live his life the best he could. He never wanted to let a day go by where he wasn’t doing something he loved or spending time with people he loved.”
Moorefield’s immediate family participated in the memorials and expressed deep gratitude to all the friends who came out to pay tribute to their brother and son. His friends said it was a testament to how Moorefield treated those around him.
“Tom’s a brother to all of us here,” said Gordon Smith, another close friend. “He could light up every room he was in.”
“Everyone here was family to him. Family isn’t just by blood – it’s also by love,” said Warner, who brought a bunch of flowers to throw into the ocean in honor of Moorefield. “It’s amazing that we’re all here celebrating him when we really need to work on being him. He was a beautiful person.”
A scholarship fund established in Moorefield’s memory has raised $4,377 on Saturday, already exceeding the $3,000 goal. Donate to the fund here: https://www.gofundme.com/surf-scholarship-in-memory-of-tom
Editor Terry Lane contributed to this report.