James Morgan greets everyone he meets with two things: a warm smile and a story. A resident at Vi at Silverstone for six years, he has a charm and an optimism about him that’s undeniable to his fellow residents — and something he credits to his far-from-ordinary entry into the world.
“I came into this life big,” Morgan said. “I weighed 11 pounds and six ounces the day I was born.”
For Morgan, stories of his childhood are plentiful. Born in Arkansas, Morgan and his family moved frequently. All told, he attended a total of six different grammar schools, and four junior high schools. Once he reached high school the family stayed put, and Morgan was able to find his place among his peers: first chair trombonist in the high school band.
“In 1944 I played in the pit orchestra for the road show in Oklahoma,” he said.
Like many of his classmates, Morgan was drafted right out of high school. He spent 19 months in the United States Army and was able to find a bit of joy by joining the band. After his service, Morgan took advantage of the GI bill and went to college at the University of Alabama, followed by law school at the University of Arkansas. It was there he would meet his match and future wife, Jean Morgan.
“We were set up on a blind date by friends,” Morgan said. “That first date was in September and we got married in Chicago in February of 1951.”
Finding his Path in Life
As a newlywed, Morgan spent some time selling appliances door to door. Eventually, he would make his way into sales, he and Jean would move to San Francisco, and there he started his own insurance company called the Morgan Agency.
“It just came naturally to me, and I loved being my own boss,” said Morgan. He had so much success that he went on to partner with a big company called Woodruff-Sawyer & Co. and sold insurance for 34 years before investing in a Mercedes dealership that brought him, his wife and two kids to Scottsdale.
In 1989 Morgan decided to retire. While he tried to enjoy the relaxation of retirement, he soon became restless and looked for something to occupy his time.
“A friend told me about Waste NOT, a local charity that picks up perishable food from restaurants, grocers and caterers, and then takes it to homeless shelters,” Morgan said. “I jumped at the chance, and took over the organization.”
When Morgan started at Waste NOT, the organization had one old beat-up truck to deliver food. After he was at the helm for 12 years, the group had six new trucks and were delivering food six days a week. “It was fun,” Morgan said. “I truly enjoyed the opportunity to impact my local community.”
Though Morgan has since retired from his work with Waste NOT, the charity continues to thrive and donates approximately 2.5 million pounds of food annually.
Retired but not Idle
In 2010 after Morgan “officially” retired from working, he and Jean decided it was time to downsize. They would become one of the first to deposit on a new continuing care retirement community in north Scottsdale: Vi at Silverstone.
Six years later, Morgan has settled nicely into life at Vi, and has even found a way to continue his philanthropic work at the community. In 2012, he, along with several other residents, launched an educational fund for Vi at Silverstone employees and dependents.
“Due to the generosity of the residents the first year we launched the program five scholarships were awarded,” he said. Morgan also added that in subsequent years, the program has increased exponentially. In 2016 – the fourth year of the program – 12 scholarships were awarded.
“I’m passionate about giving back and continuing to make a difference,” he said.