The finest kind of man

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To the Editor:

Jimmy Morgan died this week. Another Island treasure who was so much more than the sum of his parts has left us.

I met Jim Morgan about 40 years ago, when my sister Anne and her husband Forrest started renting one of the cottages Jim and Roberta owned on the rise above the creek. He has been an extraordinary friend ever since. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who delighted in talking about all of them.

He was a renaissance man accomplished in both the arts and sciences. I don’t know how long his formal schooling lasted, but I know he was one of the wisest and most well-read people I have ever met.

Your paper has written about his life as a fisherman who went sword-fishing as a very young man. Until he was in his early 80s, he singlehandedly fished his 47-foot Mary and Verna, getting up well before dawn and going out for hours in all kinds of weather. He could navigate with nothing but a compass and his wristwatch. He worried about folks who depended only on GPS, because they wouldn’t know how to survive if their electronics went down.

Jimmy Morgan was quite amazing. He was an artist whose works are owned by people from all over the world.

He was a philosopher and a great storyteller. His knowledge of the Island, and the waters that surround it, was astounding, and would challenge an oceanographer Ph.D. He read eclectically and voraciously, and remembered what he read to the end of his life.

Whenever I saw Jim in Menemsha, I knew I was in for a treat and would be there for a while. He loved talking about what he was reading, telling stories, and telling and hearing jokes. Every once in a while I would be caught without a new joke, and would try to fool him by retelling an old one. Even in his 90s he would quickly stop me and remind me that I had already told that joke. His mind was so sharp. His stories about Menemsha, fishing, the great storms, shipwrecks, and the history of the Island were like a graduate seminar. In fact, one of my graduate students (I was a college professor for 20 years) asked to interview me for a project she was working on. She asked, “Who comes to mind as one of the smartest and most interesting persons you have met in your life, and what made them stand out?” “Jimmy Morgan of Menemsha,” I replied. It took an hour to explain who he was and why I chose him.

These past few years he could be found at Roberta’s Harbor Craft Store next to the Bite. He would either be sitting in his chair on the terrace next to the store or in his car, either reading a good book or telling stories.

Jimmy Morgan has more friends than anyone I know. They include local folks of all walks of life, all ages, from all over the world.

My sister Anne and her husband, Forrest, have loved Jim and Roberta like they were extra parents. Their kids and grandkids love them like grandparents. I know dozens and dozens of other folks on the Island who feel the same way. The Morgans’ daughter Barbara and her husband John Armstrong are wonderful friends. Their son Jim is, like his dad, the kind of person who will come out in the middle of a blizzard to plow you out.

Jimmy Morgan was a wonderful and delightful gift to this world. I just love him and admire him more than words can express.

My guess is that the angels who were assigned to carry him to the arms of the Lord are having a very good time listening to his stories and laughing at his jokes. I know I did.

Rest in peace, good friend. You will be in our hearts until we join you someday. You were one of the finest men who ever drew breath.

John C. Verret
Chilmark