Retired veterinarian masters new role as food pantry volunteer

HARLINGEN — For Tom Moseley, his roundabout trip from veterinary school to a practice in Harlingen began with running horses and mules to Europe for the United Nations after the war.

“I started out two weeks after I graduated,” the 93-year-old Moseley recalled recently at the Harlingen Neighborhood Food Pantry, where he volunteers three days a week.

“During World War II they had eaten or killed most of their horses and mules over there, so they sent ‘em over there so they could do some farming.

“I already had a job lined up to work for the King Ranch, but I told them about this European tour and they said go ahead and take it, and I did,” he said.

Moseley said he eventually did land that job at the King Ranch.

Then it was off to Mexico.

“I worked for the King Ranch for about a year and, while I was there, hoof-and-mouth disease broke out in Mexico,” he said. “My roommate in college was working for the government and the United States decided to go down in Mexico and help them with the disease down there because it had gotten out of hand and they didn’t want to get it in the United States.

“He was down there and he wrote me a letter and wanted me to come down, and I found out that I would get a nice big pay raise, and it sounded real adventurous,” Moseley said.

“So I applied and I was hoping I’d get the job but they were desperate for veterinarians, and I didn’t realize that. I went down in 1947 and stayed four years.”

He came back to the Valley to work in Weslaco and then established a clinic in Harlingen on 77 Sunshine Strip. He practiced until his retirement in 2011.

“I put in 64 years as a veterinarian,” he said, but he concedes he didn’t have much to do after he retired, outside of a small woodworking shop.

“So then I found out about this and decided it’s something I could do to fill in a little more of my time,” he said of the food pantry, where he started work a year ago.

And the Harlingen Neighborhood Food Pantry is a very busy place, says pantry director Jim Coffman.

“Last year we gave out 780,000 pounds of food,” Coffman said. “The year before it was 750,000 pounds of food.

“We only serve people in Harlingen, except in emergency cases,” he said.

Moseley said his volunteer work brings with it a special reward in helping people in need.

“The people that come in really appreciate getting this food, and we try to let them know that we’re concerned with them and we’re interested in them, and it gives you a lot of satisfaction to see they’re happy to get the food,” Moseley said.

As for volunteering, Moseley advises folks to do so if they can.

“If they don’t have the time, I guess they can’t do it,” he said. “But if you have time at all, it’s a very rewarding experience so I would suggest they go ahead and volunteer.”

Coffman, for one, is glad Moseley did.

“He’s one of the best workers we have,” he said, “even at 93.”