The Eastside’s longtime community activist,
age 97, is moving east of the mountains.
Kirkland might be the city’s name, but for a few hours Sunday afternoon it could have been called “Morgan Town”.
Gathering at Heritage Hall Feb. 1, a parade of neighbors, friends, former newspaper colleagues and politicians of note all stopped by to bid farewell to Chuck Morgan, a former owner of the East Side Journal and civic activist.
The 63-year resident, so bound up with the city’s history that some call him “Mr. Kirkland”, is moving to the other side of the Cascades to Wenatchee.
“This is what makes Kirkland so close to me,” Morgan told the crowd. “I just want you to know my heartfelt appreciation to you.”
Kirkland Deputy Mayor Joan McBride and King County Councilwoman Jane Hague publicly recognized Morgan’s efforts on behalf of community causes, such as the construction of Evergreen Hospital, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and the Kirkland Performance Center.
“He will always be an integral part of the Kirkland community,” McBride said.
Family members say Morgan is relocating to the “Apple Capital of the World” to be closer to his son Doug’s family there.
Morgan, 97, is a great-grandfather and namesake to 3-year-old Charles. Returning to Kirkland from San Jose, Calif. to help with the move, his other son Greg visited and reassured old friends.
“They’ll be four generations of our family there,” Greg said. “At this point, we just want him to be close by.”
For many visitors the farewell party was also a reunion of sorts. Myrna Wolfe, a former staff writer of the Eastside Journal, spotted former classified section writers Jane Hall and Ann Hodge and Op-Ed page editor Karl Thunemann.
“There were women who would have worked at the East Side Journal for nothing,” Hall said, smiling.
The 89-year-old Wolfe, who celebrates her 69th wedding anniversary today, remembered her former boss as a quick-witted and light-footed.
“We cracked heads in the doorway once,” she recalled. “He’d come down the stairs and only touch a couple of steps on the way down.”
Organized by friends Sue Contreras, G.G. Getz, Patty Leverett, Terri Fletcher and Pam Hynes, dozens of community organizations and businesses took part in the festivities.
Heritage Hall’s walls, decked out with vintage photos of Morgan’s earlier days from the Kirkland Heritage Society, spoke his history:
A U.S. Army private in dress uniform; a bearded scout showing-off a giant salmon fished from an Alaska ice-hole; his wife Florence wrapped in an Eskimo fur coat; or a dapperly dressed newspaper publisher, grinning next to two Kirkland businessmen.
The Crab Cracker, Lynn’s Bistro and Cactus restaurants served up some of Morgan’s favorite foods and Sweet Cakes bakery and QFC created a cake frosted with his likeness.
Humanature Photography owner Bob Gassen was busy snapping informal photo portraits of all the visitors, while Cindy Zech invited those waiting to jot down their “favorite Chuck Morgan memory.”
The photos and writings will be compiled and organized into a commemorative book to help Morgan keep in touch. In all, organizers said they gave out about 250 name tags.
“Chuck is a ladies man,” Fletcher said. “We hope he finds himself a girlfriend up there.”
Morgan said that while he’s lived in a lot of places, he’s only got one hometown.
“When I travel, I always say I’m from Kirkland, Washington,” he said. “That’s what it means to me.”
He can be reached at his new home at the River West Retirement home at 509-662-2797 or 900 N. Western Ave., Wenatchee, WA., 98801.
He’s still got his cell phone handy and invites anyone who would like to give him a call. The number’s 425-246-9830.