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The determination that characterized Nola Mae Moore’s life showed through early in her life, from dealing with polio to recovering from a six-month hospital stay after she tried to fly.
Dr. Moore practiced medicine for more than 35 years, including 30 with her husband in a family practice, and was the first woman president of the King County Medical Society.
Service to others was always a part of her life, from volunteering for decades at the YMCA’s Camp Orkila on Orcas Island to her daily 2-mile neighborhood walks when she would pick up trash.
Dr. Moore, who lived in Shoreline, died April 17 from complications of the coronavirus. She was 88, and had been in great health until contracting COVID-19. Four days before going to the hospital, she was on her roof cleaning the gutters, and was still taking her daily walks and driving friends on errands.
“She liked the word ‘maverick,’ ” daughter Dee Dee Dahlen said, when asked how to describe her mother. “Unconventional, trailblazer. If she had a plan, she stuck to it, that’s who she was. But what made her tick was doing stuff for other people.”
Dr. Moore grew up in rural Wisconsin, the youngest of eight kids. She contracted polio at age 8, and taught herself how to write right-handed when her dominant left hand was temporarily paralyzed.
When she was 12, she and brother Duane made some wings. They flipped a coin to see who would try them first. Dr. Moore won, taking off from the top of a barn. The fall broke her back, and she spent six months in the hospital, a time that solidified her interest in medicine.
“She was fearless, for sure,” said son Kerry Dahlen. “She was excited and wanted to try them out first. She had that type of personality. She was definitely not a follower.”
Dr. Moore attended medical school at the University of Wisconsin and joined the Army Reserve. She met her husband, James Dahlen, on an Army Reserve bus to boot camp.
The couple married in 1959 and settled in the Seattle area because Dahlen had fallen in love with the area when he was stationed in Fort Lewis.
Dahlen joined his wife as an MD in 1961 and the two worked together for 30 years. Kerry Dahlen described his parents as “cradle-to-grave doctors.”
“Between my dad and her, they delivered almost 5,000 babies in King County,”
said Dee Dee Dahlen, who also became a physician.
Kerry Dahlen said the couple did a lot of pro bono work and were happy making as much money combined as one doctor would alone.
“That was plenty for them,” he said.
The couple often accepted payment in forms other than money.
“They would get cords of wood, freezers of meat, and one guy remodeled the bathroom for them,” Dee Dee Dahlen said. “It was a rather interesting type of last-century barter system.”
Starting in 1967, the two were volunteer doctors in the summer at Camp Orkila. The whole family went, and all three kids eventually became camp counselors.
“That was a huge part of our life for all three of us kids,” Kerry Dahlen said.
The couple worked together for 30 years before Dahlen retired. Dr. Moore then worked five more years before retiring.
” I don’t know how they worked together as well as they did,” Kerry Dahlen said. “My mother was an extremely organized person and everything was filed carefully. My dad was a visual organizer and his desk was a pile. He had stuff everywhere, so they were complete opposites that way. “
In addition to being the first woman president of the King County Medical Society, Dr. Moore founded and served as president of the Physician’s Insurance Company Board, served as president of the King County Academy of Family Practice and was selected for the King County Academy Community Service Award.
After retiring, she remained active in medical associations, including serving on the admissions committee for the University of Washington Medical School. She always had to be doing more than one thing, Kerry Dahlen said.
James Dahlen died in 2009, and Dee Dee Dahlen said her mother spent four or five months mulling what to do.
“She looked into the Shoreline Senior Center and pretty soon she was volunteering four or five days a week, and running the desk,” Dee Dee Dahlen said. “Until it was closed for the pandemic, she was there every day. She organized two Pinochle groups, and a mahjong group that met on Tuesdays. She was the ringleader.”
In the past four years, Dr. Moore rafted the Colorado River, zip lined on Camano Island, and went heli-hiking in the Bugaboo range in British Columbia.
“I would say those were acts of fortitude,” Dee Dee Dahlen said. “She just decided, ‘I might feel my years, but this is the time I got, so I’m going to use it.’ “
“We thought she would live to 100,” Kerry Dahlen said.
After Dr. Moore passed away, her children found a surprise: wrapped presents to the family for the upcoming Christmas. As organized as she was, she never shopped at the last minute.
“That’s the kind of person she was,” Kerry Dahlen said.
Dr. Moore is survived by her three children, a sister and six grandchildren.
Kerry Dahlen said he wishes he could have a conversation with his mother about what is happening in the world.
“I would have been very interested to have had the opportunity to talk to her about both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter, because she was definitely an equal-rights advocate,” Kerry Dahlen said. “We were raised in a fairly conservative house, but their values were definitely more liberal.”