By Carol Morgan Shaw
Note: Our Every Drop Adds Up campaign builds on the idea that people coming together for a common goal can make the impossible happen, just as it did four summers ago when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge soaked the world. Every person helped, research project funded, story shared, discovery made, dollar raised, piece of legislation passed, mile walked, and auction bid placed – it all adds up!
My dad, Richard (Dick) Eldred Morgan, liked to say that he’d never been sick a day in his life.
He was born in Binghamton, New York, in October 1921, the second son for Edith and Lee. His older brother, James, was able to go to college, but the family budget couldn’t stretch any further, so my dad worked after high school and added his wages to the family kitty.
When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a pilot, flying B-24 bombers over the Philippines. During a training break, two hometown families decided to play matchmaker. They introduced my dad to a young lady from Utica, New York, Ruth Hemstrought. It was love at first sight.
My dad asked Ruth, my mom, to follow him to California while he finished his training before deployment. They wed in September 1944 and were married 48 years.
My dad returned from the war, and by 1947, he was back in Utica. My granddad, Harry Beebe Hemstrought, passed his business to my uncle, Robert Hemstrought, and my dad. The contract of sale is a family treasure: ownership passed to them “for $1.00 and their LOVE.”
Hemstrought’s Bakery, famous for the original Halfmoon cookie, continued to grow and expand. Owning your own business, even as a partnership, takes long hours to remain successful. Yet, my dad found time to be creative.
His artistic side came out in the wedding cakes he decorated and personally delivered to ensure all would be perfect. And he loved to paint and create sculpture and looked forward to doing more of both in his retirement years.
My dad was a humble man. He joined his local Rotary Club to live the Club’s “Service Above Self” motto and he enjoyed golf, playing bridge and poker, bowling, and skiing.
In 1981, at age 60, he and Robert retired. Six years later, my mom and dad moved close to Williamsburg, Virginia, to enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle.
My dad was a very well person, often saying he’s never been sick a day in his life. He never took aspirin or other medications and his advice regarding colds or any medical issue was to “let your body fight it.” Approaching 70, however, he noticed changes in his body.
Eventually, at my mom’s insistence, he saw his physician. But numerous doctors couldn’t tell him why his tongue swelled, and he had trouble swallowing. Too many ailments caused those symptoms. Yet, my mom kept searching for answers. With each new symptom, she was back to his doctors or off finding new ones.
Over a year later, doctors diagnosed my dad with ALS and admitted that no one wants to make that call until all other diagnoses can be ruled out. The prognosis was bleak because ALS had no cure.
Out of the strength that love provides, my mom was able to keep him at home and care for him herself. While his body weakened, his mind was keen.
My father died in 1992, at age 71, a few days after a full entourage of family had been with him for Christmas. My mom, me, and my two sisters gave my dad great pleasure – as did his seven grandchildren and the five great-grandchildren he was able to meet. (Nine more great-grandchildren have joined the family since his passing.)
In my dad’s precious name and memory, I’m directing a $25,000 matching gift to The ALS Association. I can still hear my dad saying, “Fight it. Don’t give in.” That’s what I’m hoping to do with this gift. I’m contributing to a shining future with more and more breakthroughs in the fight against ALS. I want to be part of a time when hope can shine brightly for all people with the disease.
We’re more likely to find a cure for ALS by staying in motion rather than coming in waves. If we wait for the right time, we may miss an opportunity. Sun Tzu once said, “When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.”
Water is powerful and so are we, especially if we stand together and keep the momentum flowing.
Donate now to join Carol in keeping the momentum going as we fight for a world without ALS. You can also support us by sharing stories from our ALS community, like this one. (Click one of the “share” buttons below.) Or by bidding on an ALS Auction item, telling us your own story, picking up a PopSockets grip, or hosting a fundraiser.
As the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge proved, small actions of a few can have a major impact. Or, as we like to put it, Every Drop Adds Up!