By Tim Madigan
For the last six years, Ron Hall and Denver Moore traveled the nation with the story of their unlikely and transformative relationship.
Hall was the successful art dealer ordered by his wife to befriend Mr. Moore. He was the rough-hewn illiterate who had spent 10 years in prison and two decades on the Fort Worth streets.
But the two men discovered that despite such outward differences, they shared a profound humanity and faith in God.
Such was the message of their 2006 book, Same Kind of Different as Me, which became a national bestseller. That led to hundreds of national appearances and a White House luncheon honoring the pair in 2008. But Hall must now tell their story alone.
Mr. Moore, 75, who had been in ill health for several years, was found dead at his Dallas residence over the weekend.
"We were Velcroed at the heart," Hall said Monday. "It leaves a huge hole and void in my life. I spent the last 14 years thinking about him, worrying about him, wondering whether either I could find him or help him. It's hard to imagine that responsibility no longer being there."
On Monday, Hall and others recalled Mr. Moore's otherworldly wisdom that defied the difficult circumstances of his life.
"Denver was a true spiritual being who could see around corners," Hall said. "He didn't care about politics, and he wouldn't acknowledge he even knew who the president was. He didn't care about sports. He didn't watch television. We taught him to read, but he read to just get by. All he ever cared to talk about was spiritual matters."
John Ott of Fort Worth, another close friend of Mr. Moore, said the one place he became loquacious was in front of a crowd, talking about his faith in God and lessons of the streets.
"He would just start talking, and he would go from one subject to the next, and the next thing you knew he was sitting down and getting a standing ovation," Ott said.
Hall said a memorial service is planned for Mr. Moore in Fort Worth on April 12, with time and place yet to be determined.
"It's going to be a large one," Hall said. "People are coming from all over America. It's going to be a great send-off."
Hall ascribed their friendship to a dream of Hall's wife, Deborah. In the dream, God told her "there was a particular homeless man, a poor man who was wise and by his wisdom our cities and lives would be changed if we could find him." At the time, Hall was a wealthy art dealer who joined his wife serving Tuesday meals at the Union Gospel Mission for the homeless in Fort Worth.
During one of their visits, a melee broke out.
"There was screaming and a lot of blood; there was profanity, fighting; many people were engaged," Hall recalled. "Security guards came in to try and break it up, and I was hiding under the serving line. But Debbie was jumping up and down like a cheerleader.
"She said, 'That's him, that's the man I had the dream about.' There was one man left standing. He looked like a giant with no shirt, no shoes, raggedy pants. He said, 'I'm going to kill whoever stole my shoes.' 'The one who's threatening to kill everybody, that's the one you have to be friends with,' Debbie said."
It took Hall months to coax Mr. Moore to join him for a cup of coffee, but his wife told him to persist. In those first meetings, Hall began to learn Mr. Moore's life story. He had never attended a day of school and had lived as a sharecropper in Louisiana and then as a homeless drifter. He spent several years on the streets in Los Angeles before returning to Louisiana and a 10-year sentence. After his release, he jumped a train and landed in Fort Worth.
"He spent 25 years on the streets of Fort Worth, much of the time living in the bushes and hobo camps," Hall said. "If something bad came down, he would hide in sewers. He had slept in the street right outside my art gallery in Sundance Square. He was one of the men I called the police on."
In an early meeting, Mr. Moore, an African-American, said he was not interested in being Hall's friend if it were to be "catch and release," which Mr. Moore considered a strange fishing custom of white people. "That was the first time I had seen the wisdom from Debbie's dream," Hall said. "The poor man who was wise."
The men became close friends, discovering that they were "a couple of nobodies who were loved by a real somebody" (that is, Deborah Hall), Ron Hall said.
Mr. Moore and Hall comforted each other when she died of cancer in 2000.
"He used to pray all night when Deborah was sick," Ott said of Mr. Moore. "He told Ron: 'You've got a bunch of folks praying for Miss Debbie during the day. I'm up during the night. I'll take that shift.'"
After Deborah Hall's death, the two men lived together and worked for years on what would become their bestselling book. Since its publication, they have delivered about 400 joint lectures across the nation. Invited to the White House in 2008 by Laura Bush for a luncheon with her husband and others, Mr. Moore gave a memorable toast.
"I want to thank you for inviting me to y'all's house," he said. "You got a real nice house. I bet you all is proud of it. I'd like to thank you by name, but I can't remember none of your names. All white folks look alike to me."
In a limousine afterwards, Mr. Moore laughed. "Mr. Ron, I done gone from living in the bushes to eating with the Bushes," he said. "God bless America. This is a great country."
Hall's voice grew hoarse with emotion as he spoke Monday.
"He changed a lot of lives," Hall said. "People who read our book are never able to look at homeless people the same way again. He was a rock star."
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