“He loved the sun. He loved colors. He loved people. But he loved the earth most of all,” Morgan’s life-partner Sara Melnicoff said.
Morgan died Dec. 6, but his spirit and influence are still evident through the many ongoing projects he helped launch and support. Melnicoff is well known in Moab for her dedication to the local homeless community and recycling projects. But she credits Morgan for being the inspiration – and a driving force – behind that work.
The two met in Durango, Colo., where Morgan had moved to escape the confines of his home state of New Jersey. In Colorado, Morgan spent countless hours picking up trash along the Animas River and recycling whatever he could. His passion for cleaning up the river banks later helped fuel Melnicoff’s own dedication to cleanup and recycling.
“It was something he had been doing since he was 17,” Melnicoff said. “He had a deep love of the unmolested natural world ... He got me addicted to the cleanup.”
Morgan lived in Durango for 13 years, working at the Durango Hostel and cleaning up the banks of the river. Melnicoff said that he made many friends during his tenure at the hostel.
“He was still in touch with some of them [when he died],” she said.
While there, he also grew a garden that provided herbs to one of the local restaurants.
Melnicoff said their time together helped her learn to view the world in a different way.
“He taught me how to see things right here in the moment,” she said. “Through the cleanups and the walking, he led me back to my connection with the natural world.”
After the Durango Hostel closed its doors, Morgan and Melnicoff ended up in Moab. Melnicoff said she was shocked by how little recycling there was in town and she and Morgan teamed up to start Solutions of Moab.
“Everything we did led us to something new,” Melnicoff said. “We literally stumbled over the homeless while picking up trash on the parkway.”
They soon began working on finding ways to help the homeless populations.
“David really connected with them,” Melnicoff said.
While Morgan was every bit as involved in Solutions, he preferred to remain behind the scenes. When Melnicoff received an award for all her work, a friend of theirs made Morgan an award of his own, calling it the “Invisible Man Award.”
Robin Zank, a former Moab business owner and a longtime friend to Morgan and Melnicoff, said Morgan was the type of person who was always willing to help people.
“He was the kind of guy who would help you no matter what. He would come to anybody’s aid in a second’s notice with just good karma as his reward,” she said. “You don’t find that very often.”
Morgan was always looking to help in any way he could, Zank said.
“He’d go out looking for the homeless on the parkway to take them a blanket,” she said. “Or he’d go find them on a really cold night to help them find shelter.”
For many of the people whose lives were touched by Morgan, he was a dreamer and an all-around kind person, Melnicoff said.
“David had a huge heart, he just didn’t have a strong heart,” Melnicoff recalled one of their friends saying.
Morgan suffered his first heart attack in 1998. In 2012, he had another. Melnicoff was warned that he would probably never be the same, but she said he didn’t give up.
“He kept walking and working,” she said. “He loved to go to WabiSabi and rescue stuff from their dumpsters. And he loved to make art.”
Last month, Morgan died from a heart attack that occurred while the couple were walking their dogs on Powerhouse Lane.
“His life was incredibly short for the kind of good vibes he put out there, but he lived it. Every minute of it,” Zank said. “I think, in some ways, he knew he only had a limited amount of time, and he didn’t take a single minute for granted.”
Zank said that even though Morgan seemed almost too good to be true, he also had a human side.
“He always wanted to watch [the television show]‘Cops,’” she said. “He was the most non-violent man I knew, but he loved that show.”
Though Morgan managed to live most of his life out of the spotlight, friends said his good deeds and loving nature will ensure that he’s not forgotten anytime soon.
“Anything I’ve been able to accomplish, it’s because of him,” Melnicoff said.
A memorial and celebration of David Morgan’s life will be held Saturday, Feb. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. at Paradox Pizza, 702 S. Main St., in Moab.