Michael Morgan, whose day job was lawyering but whose passion was making music, particularly on the piano, died Friday at the Mari de Villa retirement center in Town and Country of Glioblastoma multiforme, a most virulent and aggressive form of brain tumor. He was 64.
Mr. Morgan was born in Cleveland to the late Dixon and Martha McIntosh Morgan, and attended Hawken School there. He graduated from St. Paul’s School, Concord, N.H., in 1968, and from Princeton University in 1972. After working as a journalist for four years, he returned to school at Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, from which he graduated in 1979.
He joined the Bryan, Cave law firm that year, and worked in St. Louis as well in its offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in London and in Hong Kong, where he opened an office for the firm in 1994. He returned to St. Louis in 1996 and continued his work in the law, first in private practice and then with the firms of Gallop, Johnson and Neuman and Greensfelder Hemker and Gale. He remained of counsel to the Greensfelder firm until he died.
He was a member of the Princeton Club and a supporter of Prison Performing Arts and Tower Grove Park.
His friend, the banker Spencer Burke, said,
“Relationships were important to him and he had many -- quite a few traveled to St. Louis to say goodbye in recent months. That says it all.”
Mr. Morgan was an aristocrat, one of those special E. M. Forsterian sorts: “… sensitive for others as well as for themselves … considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke."
A Knight of the Crispy Bacon
His pals love to tell stories about him, and to recount stories he told and to give accounts of music he made. He was a stalwart Knight of the Crispy Bacon, an association that met on Wednesday mornings at the Olivette Grill.
Its conversations range from the ribald and ridiculous to the abstract to the serious. Increasingly the fellows have been obliged to simmer down to confront the deaths of others as well as eventuality of their own, to mingle their joy in living with the melancholy inevitability of mortality.
Indeed, the club’s current name memorializes the late journalist John Curley, who died of cancer in 2003 after a ferocious and courageous fight against it. According to one of the knights, Clarkson Carpenter III, Curley “was always most specific in ordering “Crisp – full stop – Bacon.”
There’s plenty of having fun on Wednesdays, but this week members turned reflective in discussing Mr. Morgan and life and the endings and death itself.
Here’s a sampling: Sandy Peters said, “I'm not sure Michael ever knew an unpleasant day and that includes the constant smiles during his illness at the end.” Another knight, Martin Lammert, said, “He was a true gentleman.” Ted Atwood paraphrased John Donne: “Death be very much about us,” he said. “That doesn’t make it any easier; it makes us stoic.”
Andy Wilson took a similar tack. “Death closes in on all of us … and our closest companions who survive into their ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond. Michael faced it humorously, inquisitively, bravely and well.’’ Here, Wesley Fordyce sums it up: “Ain't nobody getting off this planet alive. Let us cherish our time here with our fellow travelers.”
A trusted counselor
All this might indicate that he took a rather casual approach to other business, including his profession. Thomas Mug and Lynn Gorguze set the record straight on that.
“Mike was the type of lawyer that we all aspire to be -- a trusted counselor with practical legal advice for his clients, a true partner always available to support his colleagues, and a role model for other lawyers. We will all miss him, because, besides being a great lawyer, he was a great friend,” said Mug, his associate at the Greensfelder firm. “It was great sharing the last few years with him here. After he got sick, I was able to find out how respected and loved he was by his partners and his clients.
“My biggest problem,” Mug said, “is putting all of the good times and wonderful experiences into words.”
Both Mug and Mr. Morgan were involved in part of the planning that eventually led to the creation of the St. Louis Beacon, the online news publication that merged with St. Louis Public Radio in 2013.
Lynn E. Gorguze is president and CEO of Cameron Holdings in La Jolla, Calif., and a former St. Louisan.
“I met Mike, she said, “when I was 22 and an associate at a St. Louis investment bank. I was just out of college and knew almost nothing. Mike was one of my firm’s attorneys. He was funny, smart, respectful and didn’t treat me like the low level peon that I was. I never forgot that. In the following 30 years that we worked together I certainly valued his legal advice, but much more than that I valued his worldly perspective on so many things. His ability to look at the big picture and cut out the small stuff and get to what really mattered in life was always welcome.
“As the general counsel to my family’s business, and afterward, he provided the advice, counsel and friendship that I will never be able to replace. His absence will remain a void never to be filled.”
Mr. Morgan is survived by his wife, Mary Armstrong Goodyear Morgan, whom he married in 1983; his sister, Martha Estes (Duane), Salisbury, Conn.; his brother, Dixon (Claire), Gates Mill, Ohio; his daughter, Phoebe, St. Louis; a son, Nicholas (fiancé, Katherine Fletcher); his step–daughters, Cameron Goodyear (JC Chandor), Pound Ridge, N.Y.; and Dana Goodyear (William Lehman), Los Angeles; four grandchildren: Frances, Miles, Rummy and Willa; and his beloved West Highland Terrier, Isabel, of St. Louis.
In honor of Isabel and her faithful companionship, and in memory of pets of Mr. Morgan who have gone before him, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Animal Protective Association, 1705 South Hanley Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63144.
A memorial service will be Thursday, Feb. 12, at 11 a.m., at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Ladue and Warson Roads.