'Absolute legend' British veteran raises $25 million by walking for the health service

LONDON (Reuters) – A 99-year-old British war veteran who has raised more than 20 million pounds ($25 million) for the health service by walking laps of his garden was praised by Queen Elizabeth’s grandson as an “absolute legend”.

Tom Moore, retired army captain who served in India, Burma and Sumatra during World War Two, became a symbol of British endurance in the face of adversity after completing 100 laps of his garden in a fundraising effort for the health service.

Moore, who has used a walking frame with wheels since breaking his hip, had aimed to raise 1,000 pounds by completing his challenge before his 100th birthday on April 30.

But his endeavour – and enduring optimism – struck a chord with people across the United Kingdom and the wider world, bringing a ray of hope amid the doom of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 147,000 people worldwide.

Prince William, the queen’s grandson, said Moore was an “absolute legend”.

“What I love also is he’s a 99-year war vet, he’s been around a long time, knows everything and it’s wonderful that everyone has been inspired by his story and his determination,” William said in an interview broadcast on Friday.

Moore said that the current doom would clear and that one day “the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”.

Such is his renown, that some have called for Moore to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth – a ritual recognition that dates back thousands of years through England’s medieval past.

“It makes me laugh,” Moore said on Thursday when asked about being recognised formally, quipping a reference to the Tudor statesman Sir Thomas More.

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“Sir Thomas Moore sounds quite good,” he chuckled.

British honours, such as knighthoods, are awarded by the queen, usually on the recommendation of a committee comprising government officials and citizens.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said “everybody is supportive of the idea” of Moore being recognised.

“I wouldn’t want to preempt Her Majesty’s honours list but it is quite clear that this gentleman has just been almost the salvation of the nation in these difficult times,” he said.

“I think everybody is supportive of the idea of him being recognised.”

His exploits have also inspired pieces of art.

In the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, 120 miles (190 km) north of Moore’s home in the south of England, artist Rachel List painted a mural of the veteran on Friday.

Moore said the walk was inspired by the care he received from Britain’s state-run National Health Service when he broke his hip and when he was treated for cancer.

Moore said on Thursday his supporters had donated an “absolutely fantastic sum of money”.

“It’s unbelievable that people would be so kind to give that sort of money to the National Health Service,” he said.

($1 = 0.8028 pounds)

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