'Cowboy of Riverview Park' honored
Tracey Donahue figures that if she'd never met Moses Carper at the horse corral he owned near Riverview Park when she was 9, her life might not have turned out so well.
“My mom was a single parent of five kids, and Moses knew how difficult things were, so he did everything he could to guide me in the right direction,” said Donahue, 46. “He didn't just teach me about horses and to love nature, he taught me and a lot of other kids the right way to live. He was magic that way.”
On Saturday, city officials paid tribute to Carper, by unveiling a refurbished park bench in his honor near the park's visitors center, where Carper volunteered.
Earlier this month, a park trail where Carper grazed horses he used for the equestrian and nature programs he helped run for children at the North Side park was renamed in his honor.
Known by many as the “Cowboy of Riverview Park” for the signature cowboy hat, boots and chaps he often wore, the life-long resident of the city's Perrysville neighborhood died on Dec. 1, 2012. He was 81. He had a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh and worked in state and county prison systems.
The dedication ceremony coincided with the annual Riverview Park Heritage Day festival, which Carper helped organize each year.
In a 2010 audio interview with students from the Manchester Charter School on the North Side, where he served as a board member, Carper said becoming an urban cowboy came naturally.
“As I was growing up, it was pretty agricultural,” Carper said. “We had three dairies, we had quite a few farms and animals. So I really thought I was in the country and that I was a country boy ... we had gardens and chickens and pigeons.”
Duane Ashley, the city's director of operations and former head of the parks department, said Carper's voluntary contributions to Riverview Park “far exceeds any compensation we could have given him if we put him on staff and paid him.”
“Moses would probably have given back the money,” said Ashley, who presided over Saturday's ceremony. “You can't find that kind of generosity. He was selfless. You cannot replace someone like him.”
Brad Yoest, 20, a summer worker whom Carper supervised — and who refurbished the bench — said the tribute was appropriate.
“He taught me how to ride horses and appreciate nature,” said Yoest of Brighton Heights. “He used to sit on that bench when he needed to take a break during a busy day.”
City Council President Darlene Harris, a lifetime North Side resident, said Carper not only ran the Chiyou horse corral near Riverview, he was “an echo-steward.”
“When I first went on city council, I got a grant to buy flowers for the park entrance,” Harris said. “He not only helped city workers plant them, he got the kids to maintain the flower beds by pulling weeds and watering them. He put his heart and soul into this park, the children and the community and he never asked for anything and never wanted any credit.”
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.