The Beautiful Life and Tragic Death of Parker Moore: The Story Behind the Book

  • Written by Derek Johnson
I never met Parker Moore. I never covered his football or track and field teams. I joined the Woodinville Weekly in 2013, just as he was graduating from Woodinville High School.
I was not familiar with him until November 16, 2014. That's when emails from readers alerted me that a popular kid from the Falcon football team had been killed in Oregon.
I wrote an article covering the murder. A year later, I interviewed Parker's parents, Doug and Julee, and wrote a one-year retrospective. Beyond those two articles, I never gave any thoughts to writing a book.
ELEVEN MONTHS LATER, I sat with my sister Jennifer as she lay on her death bed. Cancer was claiming her at the age of 41. It was excruciating to watch her waste away.
By that point, I had written five books on football — mostly about the Washington Huskies. For various reasons, UW football had lost its appeal. I knew that I would never write another book about them.
But I had no idea what else to write about. I knew I had more contributions to make, but the topic needed to be super compelling. I wasn't going to write a book just for the sake of writing a book.
As I sat looking upon my emaciated sister for the final time, I cleared my throat then leaned forward and quietly said: “I don't know if I will ever write another book or not. But if I do, I will dedicate it to you."
Jennifer smiled weakly, and slowly raised an arm to give a thumbs up.
She died on October 8, 2015.
SEVERAL MONTHS PASSED before thoughts of a book on Parker began popping up in my mind. They started as wisps of thought. “Hmmm, that might be interesting.” Then one day in June 2016, I attended a Woodinville football practice when assistant coach Ronald Jones walked in front of me. He wore a dark t-shirt emblazoned with a Parker Moore quote on the back. "The only thing left to do is to do it." 
By the spring of 2017, the idea clamored in my mind daily. Finally, I emailed Doug and Julee Moore. I told them I wanted to write a book about their son. I pledged that after the book broke even financially, I would make a respectable donation to the Parker Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund. Doug and Julee said they were “blown away” but wanted to talk among themselves and get back to me.
A couple weeks later, Doug and Julee announced that they were on board. But their daughter Hayley was a different matter — she was ambivalent. Even before Parker's death, the Moore family had gone through difficult times. Hayley wasn't thrilled about airing those details publicly. She also had heard and read many one-dimensional tributes about her brother that didn't ring fully true. She was concerned of an inauthentic portrayal being published.
But after several more weeks, she gave the green light. She still felt ambivalent, but her parents [especially her mom] wanted this story to be told and she didn't wish to stand in the way.
So began my two-year journey. I conducted sixty-one interviews and exchanged hundreds of emails and texts with the Moores. As time went on, I became close with Doug and Julee. I also became keenly aware of the bottomless chasm of grief felt by this family.  
I went far deeper into this than I ever imagined. Sleepless nights left me staring at the ceiling in thought. 
Parker Moore Book 2019
By the spring of 2019, I finished writing the book. While there was no comparing my sister’s passing and Parker’s situation, I was able to draw upon the roller coaster of emotions I went through with Jennifer and channeled it into my writing. Throughout all the interviews, I grew to know Parker well. His twenty years on earth were well-lived. 
One of the interviews was with Parker’s friend Nick Luitgaarden, who summed things up nicely. “Every single person that knew him, even mildly, could see that this guy was not only a great human but he was going to get some stuff done here,” Luitgaarden said. “Deep down everyone was excited to see what he was going to do. With everything this guy was going to accomplish and be successful, it made the murder eight hundred times more shocking... I don't think I've ever met a single person who could move an entire community like he did. To have that kind of aura and charisma. He was someone worth knowing.”  
The Beautiful Life and Tragic Death of Parker Moore is available at  

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