David William Morgan, a resident of Darien for over 32 years who was active in town politics and community service, died peacefully at home surrounded by his wife Mary Louise and children Mallory and
David Jr. on January 20, 2014. He was 85.
He had been battling Primary CNS Lymphoma for 22 months.
Mr. Morgan was born on July 6, 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the youngest of four boys born to Dr. John Benjamin Morgan, a urologist, and Bertha Amersbach Morgan. He grew up in the Lakewood section of Cleveland and attended St. Ignatius and Lakewood high schools. After spending two years at Wilmington College of Ohio, where in 1948 he was among the eight founding members of the Tau Kappa Beta fraternity, he transferred to La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he received a B.A. in Sociology and Philosophy.
He moved to Los Angeles, California in the late 1950’s where he was the Director of Public Relations and Publicity for Catalina Swimwear. After declining the opportunity to be introduced to Marilyn Monroe at a party shortly before her death, he vowed never to miss another chance to talk to any interesting public person in the fields of entertainment, sports, business or politics. He developed the personal credo to “never ask for an autograph” and approach them as equals. From that point on he had over a hundred random and interesting encounters with many of the 20th Century’s biggest names including Norman Rockwell, Martha Graham, Bing Crosby, Mother Theresa, Joe Louis, Judy Garland and President John F. Kennedy.
Mr. Morgan always valued his time in California for the deep and lasting friendships he made with the eight men who shared a beachfront house with him in Santa Monica. In a speech written 20 years later he noted, “It is important that you try to keep the friends you have and reach out to as many new people as you can. Years ago we did not call it networking, we just liked the people we met and spent a lot of time with each other. Do not sink into a shell, you’ll need everyone you ever knew someday. However, it’s more fun if you like them!”
In 1968 he moved to New York City to work in sales for Harper’s Bazaar and Seventeen Magazine. He left publishing for television to become Director of Retail and Co- Operative Advertising at CBS in 1975, before founding Morgan Communications in 1978 where he independently produced sports features for television and radio. From 2000 to 2006 he represented the San Francisco 49ers at the NFL Draft in New York City, and was a frequent attendee at the National Football Foundation’s annual College Football Hall of Fame dinner.
He married his wife Mary Louise Fitzsimmons in 1971, and decided to relocate his family to Darien in the early 1980’s based on an excellent afternoon he enjoyed watching a Darien High School Football game. He would remain an enthusiastic fan and booster of Darien athletic teams both before and after his children Mallory and David Jr. moved through the school system.
Happy summers were spent in Spring Lake, New Jersey where he was a member of the Spring Lake Golf & Country Club and a longtime member of the Spring Lake Bath & Tennis Club. Locally Mr. Morgan volunteered as a YMCA Indian Guides Chief, Flag Football coach, Babe Ruth Baseball umpire and coach. He was a supporter and active member of the Cherry Lawn Community Gardens, and a member of the Piedmont Club.
He became involved with the Democratic Party in Darien during Christine Niedermeier’s campaign for U.S. Congress in 1986, and went on to volunteer for the successful campaigns of First Selectmen Ann Mandel, Fred Sammis, and Evonne Kein. In the early 1990’s he ran for election as Constable of the Town of Darien and held the post for twenty years through 2013.
In 2001, spurred on by a development threat to the Cherry Lawn Community Gardens and inadequate noise barriers along I-95. Mr. Morgan stepped away from the Democratic Party to run for First Selectman as an Independent, winning 9% of the vote and dwarfing all other Independent candidates for First Selectman in Fairfield County that year who failed to crack more than 1.5% of the vote. His campaign was lauded at the time for its innovative use of television commercials. He ran again as in Independent in 2003, and returned to the Democratic fold as a candidate and office holder for Constable and party volunteer. He was a frequent participant of the Thursday morning “Kitchen Cabinet” public affairs discussion group at the Sugar Bowl.
He is perhaps best remembered in Darien for the charity “Bikes For Bed-Stuy” he founded in 1986 and ran for 13 years. In 1985 Mr. Morgan was inspired by an article in the New York Daily News about NYPD officer who purchased a bicycle for a seven year old boy in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn after the child reported that his new bicycle had been ripped out of his hands and stolen on his first ride.
Touched both by officer’s generosity and the stark disparity between the affluence and safety of Darien and Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1980’s, Morgan came up with an idea to collect used bicycles throughout the year in Connecticut, repair them, and gift them to needy children at the 81st Precinct Christmas party. What started as 60 used and repaired bicycles in the first year grew at its high point to over 200 bicycles being distributed to inner-city children each year. Although Morgan concluded his involvement with the group in 1999, people continued to call his home for years afterward to ask if they could donate their bikes.
In addition to his political and philanthropic interests, Mr. Morgan had lifelong passion for the visual arts — particularly in the areas of illustration and photography. His primary hobby was following collegiate football, professional football, collegiate basketball and his beloved Cleveland Indians. David Morgan was a dedicated and beloved husband and father.
The family will receive friends at the Edward Lawrence Funeral Home, 2119 Post Road, Darien on Friday, January 24, 2014 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM., and 7:00 to 9:00PM. A Mass of Resurrection in Celebration of the life of David Morgan will be held at St. John Roman Catholic Church, 1986 Post Road, Darien on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Burke Rehabilitation Hospital – Outpatient Center. The Burke Rehabilitation Center, Attn: Development Office, 785
Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, New York 10605. www.burke.org/donate