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December 15, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Shirt captures Bill Stewart’s finest hour

MORGANTOWN — It was over a year ago that we met Jeff Moores, who had used his skills as a distance runner to help him to a West Virginia University education as a member of coach Stan Romanoski’s cross country and track teams that featured WVU Hall of Famer Alex Kasich.

He had used that education and skill in art to become a prominent magazine and ad agency illustrator while messing around on the side with an imaginary friend he discovered in the sixth grade in suburban Pittsburgh, a tiny humanoid type critter who came to become his trademark in his freelance illustrations.

“I ran track and cross county in high school, and I would draw things on the chalkboard before the coach would come in,” he explained. “This little character looks like a little peanut with big eyes, big lips and just little whiskers. Everyone on the team would say, ‘Hey, that looks like Harry (a runner on the team), with those big eyes.’ So we called him Harri.”

In his freelance work he created a format which included the use of hundreds of tiny people in the scenes, one of them always Harri.

“Eventually, I started hiding him in all my art work, kind of like a Where’s Waldo?-like thing,” he said.

This led him to begin doing T-shirts and prints, which brings us up to what has transpired this year in an inventory that could help make someone’s Christmas very merry.

Three different incidents during the past year led Moores into creating new WVU works of art, two of them sports oriented, one of them on the serious side, which is something of a departure from the fun items he had been producing and selling online at findharri.com and at his station outside the Ronald McDonald House at the students’ parking lot before and often after Mountaineer football games.

Shortly after former WVU football coach Bill Stewart suddenly died while playing golf with Ed Pastilong, the one-time Mountaineer athletic director, a couple of friends approached Moores.

“They asked if I was going to do a Bill Stewart tribute kind of thing,” Moores recalled.

He told them that he had not planned to do it.

“I really didn’t want to commercialize on it at that time,” he said.

Time passed before a few other friends offered the same suggestion.

“So I approached his wife, Karen. I told I her didn’t want to do it unless I had her blessings,” he said. “She was all for it. She said she’d love to see a tribute shirt.”

And so it was that he went out put together a realistic image of Stewart, propped up on the shoulders of a couple of players, opting not to do it in his cartoonish style.

The wording on the shirt was simple and in reality the only wording it could be:

LEAVE NO DOUBT!

“I never met Bill Stewart, but just from what I heard about him and that ‘Leave No Doubt’ speech, man, that speech inspired me,” Moores said.

He set it up with Karen Stewart so that a portion of the proceeds went to the Bill Stewart Memorial Community Fund.

The other football-oriented item he put together came after this year’s Baylor game, the first Big 12 game in WVU history and as memorable a game as there has been, WVU winning, 70-63, as records fell left and right before a crowd that had worn either blue or gold T-shirts to create a striped pattern in the stands.

“The Striped Stadium” he called the work.

“It made a beautiful print,” he said. “I got a license through Baylor and West Virginia.”

As he does, his little people were in the stands, and they were standing up holding miniature signs and banners listing all the records on them.

It has become a big seller, both as a T-shirt and print.

Earlier in the year he had produced a really neat “Air Raid” T-shirt which had a map of the United States with each of the Big 12 opponent’s cities marked and football coming down upon them.

“The football looks almost like a bomb, and I had my little character, Harri, riding it like Slim Pickens did in the posters for the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,’” he said.

“It went great early in the season but slowed down quite a big during the losing streak.”

And finally changing times moved Moores to do an illustration that went back to one of the very first one he ever did as WVU purchased the property known as Sunnyside and planned to redevelop it, forcing angry students to find new housing.

“I had a couple of Sunnyside shirts, one licensed by the schools, that I did previously,” he said. “There was one I did in the late ’70s that was real popular … still is. So, when the students came into an uproar I felt I had to do a real tribute shirt. It’s called ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down.’”

The print and T-shirt show the sunset and some students up on the roof overlooking Sunnyside.

“It’s a real tribute to the old establishments. A lot of alumni like and a lot of the young kids, too,” Moores said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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