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Austintown artist draws on his talents to honor officers

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron Ron Moore Jr. of Austintown stands by pencil drawings he made of Detective James Skernivitz, top, and officer Nicholas Sabo, both of the Cleveland Police Department. Skernivitz was shot to death last Thursday near downtown Cleveland and a short time later, Sabo committed suicide.

AUSTINTOWN — Many people have sought counseling, joined support groups, stepped up volunteer efforts and used other means to recover from traumatic experiences and losses.

For some of them, another source of healing has been Ron Moore Jr.

“I’ve probably done 250 to 300 portraits. I did one portrait each to the 58 people killed in Las Vegas and sent them to the families,” the Austintown artist said, referring to the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in which a gunman opened fire from a motel room window above a Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

Most recently, Moore created pencil drawings of Detective James Skernivitz and officer Nicholas Sabo of the Cleveland Police Department, to memorialize and honor them. Both died on the same day last week.

Skernivitz, 53, was shot to death last Thursday evening west of downtown Cleveland during an apparent attempted robbery as he and an informant, who also was killed, sat in an unmarked vehicle during an

undercover operation to investigate drug dealing in the area. Recently, Skernivitz, who started his career with the department in 1998, had been assigned to the Gang Impact Unit.

David McDaniel Jr., 18, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder. Also charged in the crime are two juveniles, 15 and 17. Skernivitz’s funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday in Cleveland, at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Hours after the shooting, Sabo, 39, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in North Ridgeville, according to the Lorain County Coroner’s office. Sabo and Skernivitz were friends, but police Chief Calvin D. Williams has not confirmed whether the two worked together.

Few other details regarding the suicide have been released.

DEEP GRATITUDE

Moore, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, said he heard about the officers’ deaths while watching the local morning news and immediately wanted to act.

Although he had never met Sabo or Skernivitz, he created pencil portraits of the officers to reflect his deep gratitude for their service — and that of police in general.

“My connection with these two officers is the same as with every police officer: I appreciate what they do to keep our communities safe,” he explained. “My thought is, ‘What police officers go through on a daily basis, they need to be respected.'”

To show his respect, Moore plans to drive to Cleveland today to deliver his drawings to the police department, which in turn will give them to the Sabo and Skernivitz families. The Skernivitz rendering will be on display at his funeral, Moore said, adding that he has ordered prints to be shipped next week to the Cleveland Police Department.

The centerpiece of his artwork is a deep drive toward helping victims of trauma and those who have lost loved ones to violence heal, as well as to spread love and compassion. Art also has helped Moore deal with difficult times he’s endured, he continued.

To that end, he also has completed such portraits of all 17 students and staff members of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who were killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at the school. In addition, Moore has drawn portraits of those killed in a church shooting Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Locally, he drew each of the five children ages 1 to 9 who died in a house fire at their Parkcliffe Avenue home Dec. 9, 2018. Their mother, America “Amy” Negron Acevedo, jumped through a second-story window to escape.

HEALING

In many cases, Moore also includes condolence letters to victims’ loved ones. If he’s unable to contact them directly, he often will donate his works to the school or police department in the affected areas to be given to them, he said.

As part of helping them heal, Moore meets victims’ family members and loved ones on their terms, he noted.

“I think art is not just meant to decorate a wall; art should be a tool to impact someone’s life, hopefully for the good,” Moore said.

Moore also isn’t shy about lending his artistic interpretations to famous people, many of whom fill the walls to a bedroom-turned-gallery in his home. They include the members of the rock group Led Zeppelin, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., actress Shirley Temple as a child, the late country singer Charlie Daniels and one of actor Tom Hanks alongside Fred Rogers, whom he played in the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Moore said the suicide rate among those with Parkinson’s disease is about 13 percent. Many others with such a diagnosis think they are unable to function, but they need to recognize the power they can tap into to fight the disease and move forward, he advised.

“No matter how bad Parkinson’s gets … it’s not nearly as bad as what these people go through with their loved ones not coming home,” he continued.

Moore graduated from Alliance High School in 1986, then enrolled in a two-year home-study vocational commercial art program.

news@tribtoday.com

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