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Hero, Inspiration and Beacon of Hope: Tributes Pour In for Tom Moore

LONDON — The messages of condolences have come from Queen Elizabeth, England’s national soccer team and a member of the British pop group One …

LONDON — The messages of condolences have come from Queen Elizabeth, England’s national soccer team and a member of the British pop group One Direction.

As the news spread on Tuesday that Tom Moore had died, countless tributes poured in for the spry and optimistic 100-year-old Army veteran who raised millions of pounds for Britain’s National Health Service through charity walks last year. Mr. Moore’s mischievous smile appeared on every television channel in Britain, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was a national inspiration.

“Captain Sir Tom Moore was a hero in the truest sense of the word,” Mr. Johnson said on Tuesday on Twitter. “In the face of this country’s deepest post war crisis he united us all, he cheered us all up, and he embodied the triumph of the human spirit.”

Mr. Moore’s death blunted the optimism that had emerged in recent days around reports that the country’s adult population could be vaccinated within months, and that Britain could return to some kind of normality before the summer.

In London, the Union flag was lowered to half-staff at 10 Downing Street, the home of the prime minister, and lawmakers paid tribute Mr. Moore during a parliamentary session. Wembley Stadium, Britain’s largest stadium which has remained empty for months, lit up on Tuesday evening with a tribute to Mr. Moore.

Mr. Moore was hospitalized on Sunday after being treated for pneumonia in recent weeks and testing positive for the coronavirus. His death was announced on his Twitter account, which drew hundreds of thousands of reactions in a few hours.

António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, who met Mr. Moore last year, said he had inspired millions of people with “his tenacity, optimism and selflessness.”

Few countries rallied behind a national figure as much as Britain did with Mr. Moore during the pandemic: Through his routine walks on the brick patio next to his garden in Marston Moretaine, a tranquil village an hour north of London, Mr. Moore became a media sensation, a heartwarming, fatherly figure, and a national inspiration embodying the country’s resilience in the middle of a pandemic.

“He was one of these people who was exactly like he was on television,” said John Maguire, a BBC journalist who interviewed him several times.

As Britain became one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic last year, and news reports showed alarming video from overwhelmed hospitals, Mr. Moore turned into a superstar fund-raiser, who rallied behind his steps thousands of donors and ultimately raised 33 million pounds, or $45 million, for the overstretched National Health Service.

“It’s not just about the funds he raised, it’s the inspiration he has been for so many throughout the country,” said Ellie Orton, the chief executive for NHS charity, which was the recipient of Mr. Moore’s fund-raiser. “Because he had this attitude of ‘You’re never too old to make a difference,’ his legacy will be felt throughout the whole of the N.H.S., and throughout the whole of the country,” Ms. Orton added on the BBC.

Mr. Moore didn’t receive the coronavirus vaccine because he was suffering from pneumonia, and in recent days some social media commentators criticized a trip that he and his family had taken to the Caribbean island of Barbados in December, at a time when the authorities were discouraging travels overseas. (There is no evidence that Mr. Moore was infected with the coronavirus during his trip, and his travels, paid for by British Airways, happened before the British authorities imposed a new nationwide lockdown in England.)

Mr. Moore’s death comes a week after Britain reported a total of 100,000 coronavirus deaths, a staggering number that prompted several British news outlets to celebrate the lives and names of a some of the pandemic’s victims.

Through media appearances last year, Mr. Moore shared messages of hope and optimism that inspired many. His duet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” with British singer Michael Ball, became a sensation.

A former decorated British Army officer from World War II, Mr. Moore fought decades later with his legs and his walker, becoming a figure of resistance during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Adam Larkum, an illustrator who wrote a book for children about Mr. Moore, said the army veteran had that “little bit of British eccentricity” that the country needed in trying times.

Britain has now reported more than 108,000 deaths, but authorities have said that the country is on track to have more than 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February. That ambitious figure, and the overall successful vaccine rollout so far, has embodied the hopes of many during a wintry second wave.

As British politicians and public personalities paid tribute to Mr. Moore, his messages of hope from last year also resurfaced: “the sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away,” Mr. Moore said in April last year.

Amid the effusion of superlatives, the revered National Health Service, reacted with a simpler message.

“Thank for everything Sir Tom,” it wrote on Twitter, along with a blue heart emoji.

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