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Britain’s lockdown hero Captain Tom Moore dies aged 100

LONDON: World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he walked in his garden to raise money for healthcare workers has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.

His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him behind his walker in a happy moment, ready for an adventure.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of,’’ the family’s statement said. “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.’’

Captain Tom set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard.  His quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. Donations poured in from across Britain and as far away as the United States and Japan, raising some 33 million pounds ($40 million).

For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Captain Tom pushing his walker in the garden. It was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss. “Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.

When Captain Tom finished his 100th lap on April 16, a military honour guard lined the path. The celebration continued on his birthday a few days later, when two World War II-era fighter planes flew overhead in tribute.

In July, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in a socially distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle. The 94-year-old monarch used an long sword to confer the honour as Moore, wearing his wartime medals on his chest, leaned on his walker and beamed.

“I have been overwhelmed by the many honors I have received over the past weeks, but there is simply nothing that can compare to this,″ he tweeted after the ceremony. “I am overwhelmed with pride and joy.”

Born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on April 30, 1920, Moore completed an apprenticeship in civil engineering before being drafted into the army during the early months of World War II. After being selected for officer training, he rose to the rank of captain while serving in India, Burma and Sumatra.

During a backyard barbecue in early April of last year, Moore’s family challenged him to walk the entire length of the 25-meter driveway. His son-in-law encouraged him to keep going, offering to pay 1 pound for every lap and suggesting a goal of 100 laps by Moore’s 100th birthday.

Moore thought he might be able to raise 1,000 pounds for the doctors and nurses who took care of him after he broke his hip. His family used social media to publicize “Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk for the NHS.”

A local radio reporter called first, then national broadcasters and soon international media were waiting outside the garden gate. As he pushed his walker up and down the path, people facing the first lockdown of the pandemic watched online.

Prince Harry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and dozens of celebrities cheered for him. It was the public that embraced Captain Tom, flooding the village post office with some 6,000 gifts and 140,000 birthday cards. He was made an honorary member of the England cricket team, had a train named after him, and was recognized with the Freedom of the City of London award.

He dedicated his autobiography, “Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day,’’ to “all those who serve on the front line of any battle – be it military, psychological or medical.’’ In the end, Captain Tom urged the public to look after one another, and he thanked the country he inspired for inspiring him.