STILLWATER – An Oklahoma boy diagnosed with progeria, a rare aging disease, died Monday night at age 3. Zachary Moore of Stillwater died at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa of respiratory complications, his father, Keith Moore, said Tuesday. “The main thing that everyone needs to know is it’s truly not a day to be sad, even though it’s tough and we’ll miss him,” he said. “He’s in heaven now. “He’s completed his mission.”

Zachary was one of an estimated seven people in the nation diagnosed with progeria, a disease characterized by advanced aging in children. Progeria affects one baby out of about 4 million to 8 million, according to the Progeria Research Foundation. Children with progeria usually die from cardiovascular disease at an average age of 13.

Services were pending Tuesday afternoon. “He seemed to have done a lot in his 3½ years,” said Richard Poe, minister of the Stillwater Church of Christ, where Zachary’s family is well-known. “He seemed to have an impact on people, an influence.” The Moores rely heavily on their faith, Poe said. “I think they realized God placed Zachary with them for a while,” he said, “and that they were good parents and took care of this little one God entrusted to them.”

A father’s thoughts
Keith Moore kept a journal of his experiences with his son. He reflected on fun times, his fears as a parent and how Zachary inspired him, his family and others.

“It is so hard for me to put him down to sleep each night,” he wrote Feb. 21, 2005. “Every time I do the thought crosses my mind that this may be the last time I see him alive. I constantly wake up at night to check on him. I always want to make sure that I take a good look at him since it seems so possible it may be the last.”

But like the rest of his family, Keith Moore focuses on the positive parts of Zachary’s life, as he wrote June 16, 2005: “Our experience with Zachary has left me with no complaints. He is happy and so is his family.”

A boy’s best friend
Nearly a year ago, Zachary was given a service dog, a golden retriever named Hobbs, by an Arkansas organization.

“He gives Zachary more confidence,” Zachary’s mother, Molly, said at the time. “In public, because Zachary looks different, kids often stare, but with Hobbs, they would come up to him and talk about his dog. There was common ground.”

Kate Morgan, executive director of Southwest Service Dogs, remembers how hesitant she was when Zach’s mother called to request a service dog for her son.

Most children, especially those younger than 5, can’t have service dogs because the animals aren’t always gentle.

“But his mother talked me into it,” she said. “She could be very persuasive when it came to Zachary.”

Morgan brought a van full of dogs to the Moore house and let Zachary and his parents choose which one worked best. While Zachary and his family were choosing a dog, a golden retriever named Hobbs walked up to the boy and put his head in his lap. Zach laughed and the decision was made.

Morgan came back to help train Hobbs with Zach’s mom, and said she saw the boy and the dog grow closer each time. One time she walked into the house and found Zachary tossing his blanket on the floor; Hobbs patiently picked it up and handed it back to the boy.

“Zachary was just laughing and laughing,” she said. “He’d just giggle and throw it on the floor.”

Zachary was mischievous and smart, Morgan said. And part of that bright personality came from his parents, brother and three sisters, Morgan said.

“They truly are such a wonderful family,” Morgan said, “and they did give Zachary the best life he could possibly have.”