Write Again . . . Sorrow into service

Published 3:22 pm Monday, August 15, 2016

A while back I wrote a column suggesting that rather than complaining about things, those who look on the negative side might consider directing some of their energies to a more positive endeavor: being a volunteer.

Well, now. While walking on the downtown boardwalk recently, my path crossed with my friend Warren Smith. He commented about that column, which brought to his mind Anne Morgan, who had been a neighbor of his in Asheville.

Let me share with you now what Warren told me:

Anne was born in the Big Ivey community along the Madison and Buncombe counties line around 1900.

As a child she was badly burned on her legs and back as she and a friend burned the chaff in a wheat field. Her wounds were very painful for the remainder of her life.

Anne was devoted to her older brother and her father. As a teenager she worked as a domestic servant for a family named Zimmerman who were in the feedlot business.

By 1920, she had moved to an area of Asheville known as Chicken Hill, just above the cotton mills along the river, which was close to Anne’s job in the mill.

Anne married and had two sons. The younger one was shot and killed by a Japanese sniper during the recapture of Corregidor in 1945.

Anne told how a young Army officer walked up her road, took notice of the address, straightened his dress uniform’s jacket and cap, and turned into her yard.

She was sweeping the front porch as he arrived, and she said her entire world collapsed as she watched him come to her door.

By 1960, Anne’s husband had died in a traffic accident, and her older son had died in a non-combat flight accident while in the Air Force. Both her sons died while in military service. At the time of her death, she still kept their spare uniforms.

Anne said that the death of her younger son had hurt her so deeply that she came to realize the only path to regaining her life would be to help others.

By 1985, Anne had amassed 25,000 hours of volunteer service at the VA facility in Oteen. After that, they stopped counting her hours, but she never stopped going there to volunteer. There is a plaque there noting her service.

Anne was never well-to-do, but she never complained about work or expenses. She read the Bible as a daily joy. She was 100 (or almost) years old when she died.

Warren told me that, “When I have a moral choice before me, I still ask, ‘What would Mrs. Morgan do?’

“Anne Morgan’s life is still a continuing inspiration to anyone who ever knew her.”

She turned her sorrow into service.