Thedora Moore, 75, has cared for Baltimore’s children for more than 40 years. This weekend, community members will celebrate her retirement from working as a childcare provider with a drive-by parade on Saturday, July 24.
Thedora’s daughter, Tonya, said she organized the parade to honor her mother, who is also a Baltimore-native, a cancer survivor and a dedicated church volunteer.
“I wanted to have this drive-by parade for my mom because she is so vested in this community,” Tonya said. “She helped raise its children — literally.”
The parade outside of Thedora’s Lake Walker home will be a drive-by event “out of respect for the COVID-19 situation,” Tonya said, while still allowing her mother to “see how many people her love and support of this community truly impacted.”
The parade will start at 3 p.m. with participants driving slowly past Moore’s home at 6206 Northwood Drive. It will also be a send-off for Thedora before she embarks on a long-awaited trip to Europe.
Thedora was born by midwife in her mother’s home on Mace Street in central Baltimore. The most influential person in her life, Thedora said, was her aunt Sarah, who taught her how to save money, cook, have good work habits, and how to be an entrepreneur.
“In her older age, before she passed, I had the pleasure of being her caregiver,” Thedora said. “I was able to take care of her like she took care of me.”
Thedora’s passion for serving her community started at a young age. Growing up, she learned that it is better to give than to receive, and that giving back brought her great happiness.
“Knowing that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life gives me a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “Dedicating my time taught me patience, kindness, and resilience. When I shut my eyes and leave this earth, I want to leave a great legacy.”
When Thedora’s oldest son was a baby, she started a daycare for the children in her community.
Tonya said the children at the daycare grew up alongside her and her siblings.
“They became family,” she said. “One daycare parent’s husband left and she and her two kids needed somewhere to live. My mother opened our home to them. Instead of me having two brothers, I had four.”
The four brothers would perform for Tonya and her friends when they would come over. The boys called themselves “The Jackson 4,” a nod to the legendary Jackson 5.
“My oldest brother was Michael Jackson,” Tonya said. “He owned a glitter glove, jacket, and black top hat like THE Michael Jackson. He also had his hair in an afro. You had to witness it to believe it … It was hilarious!”
Thedora said that although she loves all of her daycare kids, one in particular was attached to her hip from the time she started caring for him at 3 months old until he was 4 years old.
As soon as the boy saw her, he would jump on her and give her a big hug and a kiss. He always wanted to take pictures with a big grin on his face, Thedora said.
“The way he [would drag] the word ‘cheeeeese’ out when taking a picture was hilarious,” she said. “He would go back and forth with the other kids and say, ‘That’s my mama.’ And they would say, ‘No, that’s my mama,’ and he would say, ‘No, that’s my mama.’ So, I guess, I’m [his] mama.”
Thedora worked as a daycare provider for more than 40 years, impacting not only the children that she cared for, but their parents as well. Many of the parents were going to school for nursing, law, and other disciplines, and Thedora encouraged them to keep pushing.
“I was like a mentor to the parents, too,” she said. “A lot of parents, I taught them how to take care of their child … I encouraged them when they wanted to give up. I encouraged them and prayed for them.”
Tonya describes her mother as a quiet spirit, big on hospitality, and a great mother of three and wife of 57 years. She shows love by cooking, is spiritual and discerning, and is faithful to her religion.
Thedora has always gone the extra mile for her community. She would frequently care for children even when their parents couldn’t pay her, Tonya said. To Thedora, it was more important that the kids were safe, fed and loved.
She also cared for Tonya’s uncle, who had dementia, and took Tonya’s father to dialysis appointments three times a week all while running her daycare business. When Tonya’s uncle couldn’t live in his house alone, Thedora and her husband moved him into their home.
Tonya recalls that when she found out she was pregnant with her son, she was initially distraught because her daughter wasn’t even 1 year old and she had separated from her husband. She turned to her mom, who gave her full support and helped take care of the two children.
Tonya felt reassured knowing her children were in good hands and she was able to earn her college degrees, have a fulfilling career, and serve in the U.S. Air Force. Now, Tonya’s son is serving as an officer in the U.S. Army.
“My mom is a true servant and thinks of others before herself,” Tonya said. “She has made so many sacrifices to ensure our family stayed together as one unit without lacking anything.”
In January 2020, Thedora was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She had a major surgery that kept her in the hospital for several months. After leaving the hospital, she caught an infection and had to be readmitted, and now must take long-term antibiotics, Tonya said.
“This retirement parade is so important to me because she has given so much to her family and society, and now it’s time for her to reap,” Tonya said. “I want to give her flowers while she can smile at them.”
In her free time, Thedora loves participating in The Mix Church’s outreach ministries. Every Wednesday at noon, the group has programs such as No Kid Hungry to provide lunches to local children. She also likes to meet with her prayer meetup group every Thursday.
For years, Thedora has dreamed of visiting Spain. She plans to finally make that dream come true as after retirement she sets out to visit the country and see some of its historic buildings and sites, such as the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Granada, and the Great Mosque of Córdoba.
Those who wish to send a video message to Thedora to celebrate her retirement can do so here.