My Dad, John Willard Morgan graduated from high school in 1934 in a rural Appalachian community in Southern Ohio near New Holland, Ohio. At his high school graduation, his Aunt Della Martin-Limle gave him a gift of a silver dollar which he carried in his pocket until the day he died at age 86. She told him to always think of it as a good luck piece. He grew up during the depression era and I have thought many times how difficult it was and how he must have been tempted to use that silver dollar to buy food or get transportation home, but he never did.
He was the son of a minister and lost his mother at age 4. Later his father remarried and when Dad's relationship didn't work out well with his step-mother he went to live with his Aunt Della. We learned later in his life how important his aunt was to him and how family became his priority in life. Dad shared the story of that silver dollar with his three sons and ten grandchildren. It was worn, thin and one would hardly recognize it as a silver dollar in his later years. In many ways, it was just like him; it traveled many miles, was a symbol of love and family and still remains that today in my mind. I wonder to this day what memories it evoked in his mind when he looked at that silver dollar each day as he placed it in his pocket.
Dad was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during WW II. Since he was older than some of the others, they called him "Pops", he was 29. It had to be difficult for him to leave a wife and two young sons, but he knew it was his duty to serve his country. Like all veterans, he could have shared stories of his time in the service, but he chose not to talk much about it.
After returning from the war he bought and ran a service station business in Jackson, Ohio for 35 years. (7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.) This was a family business where my brothers and I and some of the grandsons as well as many local men and boys worked and learned the work ethic of the greatest generation. It was there we learned important business values such as the customer is not always right but he deserves to be treated well, be at work on time, do it right the first time and you won't have to do it over, and many others. For those customers he knew that were less fortunate, he always helped them knowing that they would probably not be able to pay him immediately or ever, but many did. I can remember Dad coming home with a steel guitar, a fiddle and a bottle of homemade wine for payment instead of cash from those who just didn't have the money to pay him. Morgan's Sinclair (located in the center of town next door to the bank) was known as the place to get great service. In those days great service meant getting your oil and tire pressure checked, windshield washed and if needed, a minor repair; and on Saturdays' a top-notch car wash. Children often had their bicycle tires fixed as well. In addition, you received a friendly smile from the cigar-smoking Willard Morgan and kids always were given a piece of candy.
Dad sold his business after 35 years and tried to retire, but soon after went back to work for a friend who owned a service station. After working there a number of years, he then began working with the veterans. He said, "Retirement is not for me."
At the age of 70 he again was
asked to serve, this time as the Veterans Service Officer for the county
of Jackson in Jackson, Ohio, a position he held until his death. During
his tenure in this job he shared with us many stories of veterans and
their struggles. I remember him being very concerned about a widow of
a local veteran who did not have enough money for medicine, food and utilities.
He immediately made some calls and made sure this lady received the assistance
she needed. It was very important to him to help those in need and at
times it was difficult because of lack of available funds. Somehow he
was able to find the funds to help those who were in severe need. I've
been told that he helped many from his own pocket.
Dad was a Christian and a member
of the Grace United Methodist Church in Jackson where he sang in the choir.
On August 12, 2002 at the age of 86 the Lord took him home to help his
angels sing. We were asked by the Funeral Director what we wanted to do
with the piece of silver. The decision was easy, we told him to put it
back in his pocket where he always carried it and we buried him with that
Silver Dollar in his pocket.
That silver dollar was something he talked about to all the family. Today, it serves as a symbol to our family of the things I mentioned above: love of family, work ethic, good memories and a special person in my life. It is a treasure and a way to remember him. I'm not really sure he knew how much we appreciated hearing about the story or the impact it had on some of our family. I'm sure many people have their good luck pieces but this one is much more for our family and goes beyond us as individuals. It is one we will always cherish in our remembrance of Dad. I gave my son Michael and my daughter Amanda each a 1934 Silver Peace Dollar to keep as a reminder of the many good memories we have of having my dad for 86 years and teaching us the importance of being together as a family.