This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Reggie Moore’s love of the circus took him into the ring, on the road and into the hearts of local circus performers and those around the world. Now, the 21-year-old man known as the “gentle giant” of St. Louis’ Circus Harmony, is being mourned by the wider circus community and his family, following his Friday night death in a local car accident.
After joining Circus Harmony as a teenager, the six-foot-five, 250-pound Moore quickly became known as a hard worker with a big heart, according to the organization’s artistic and executive director Jessica Hentoff.
“He was just a big kid who fell in love with the circus and it changed his whole life,” Hentoff said. “The audiences just loved him and they were amazed to see what he could do.”
Moore’s dedication is evident not only in his accomplishments but in a message on his Facebook page. In a 2011 post, he wrote that the “circus is my life,” adding that he’s “going all out” to do his best.
Moore's life and work will be celebrated in a service Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the City Museum, the home of Circus Harmony. Among those in attendance will be a passerby who managed to pull Moore from the wreckage before it burst into flames, Hentoff said.
Funeral arrangements are pending but they may take place Saturday, according to Ellis Foster Mortuary.
Running away with the circus has long been a romantic notion, but Moore’s story is one of falling into circus life by accident, according to Hentoff. As a high-school student, he heard two classmates talking about going to practice. Thinking they meant basketball, he tagged along. What he saw at the City Museum intrigued him, according to his mother Nichelle Morris.
“He came home and he said, ‘Mama, I’m taking juggling class,’” Morris said. “And the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘How much does that cost?’”
With the help of an uncle and later a fundraiser, Morris was able to continue classes here and in Canada. After graduating high school, Moore worked as a student teacher and performer at Circus Harmony. Soon, he could juggle five objects, a feat that placed him in the professional realm.
“Seems like after he finished one class he’d just sign up for another. He was so determined,” remembered Morris, also the mother of a younger son.
When family members traveled from New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Indiana to see Moore perform, they would “go wild,” Morris said.
“Being six-foot-five, he was the biggest person in the circus,” Moore said. “And when he turned a flip through a hula-hoop or juggled knives, it was amazing.”
Morris would like her son to be remembered as "a beautiful person who was kindhearted and full of life.” One of his best friends, Iking Bateman, agreed, elaborating that, “There was never a dull moment with Reggie.” Besides circus work, the pair had sports in common. They played basketball against each other in high school and ribbed each other over Moore’s beloved Miami Heat and Bateman’s favorite Los Angeles Lakers.
“He was more than a best friend, he was like a brother,” Bateman said.
‘Larger than life’
Moore had only recently begun learning the ropes as a trapeze artist. But it was his role as a base for launching others that cemented his bond with many performers.
“The circus is about trust and responsibility and people felt safe standing on him,” Hentoff said.
Over the years, Moore also amassed a large group of friends outside St. Louis with whom he kept in touch through Skype, Facebook and FaceTime. Among his contemporaries were members of the International Jugglers’ Association and the American Youth Circus, and others from the the Galilee Circus, a Jewish-Arab circus youth troupe that performed in St. Louis in 2012.
As word spread about Moore’s death, condolences and memories began to dot the Circus Harmony Facebook page. Characterizing the sentiments is a posting from Boston performer Marci Diamond who didn’t know Moore well but instantly felt his special presence.
“I will always remember Reggie's beautiful spirit and smile and be inspired by his life,” she wrote.
Over the phone, Diamond told a story about her 17-year-old daughter who was with Moore this past summer at an American Youth Circus event in Seattle. When she climbed into a van to say goodbye to him, Moore started crying, which led Diamond’s daughter to break down.
“Pretty soon the whole van started crying,” Diamond said. “That was the kind of love and connection that he created.”
This past summer, Moore made even more friends as he traveled from New York to Colorado with the Zoppé family circus, including Nino the Clown.
“He was just a kid from North St. Louis, living his dream,” Hentoff said.
When the accident happened, Moore was on his way to talk to Hentoff, she said, about another dream: auditioning for a Canadian circus school. It’s an adventure that would surely have only widened his global circle.
“Wherever he went, everybody knew Reggie because he’s so outgoing and really larger than life,” Hentoff said.
Watch Reggie Moore in a lively tumbling performance earlier this year.