On September 4, 2011, decorated Korean war veteran and schoolteacher David Gambrell Morris passed away at the age of 82. He was survived by 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.
He was born on October 7, 1928, in Vian, Oklahoma, and spent his early life in Muskogee. The summer after he finished high school, he went down to Texas to work the oil fields. His Texas excursion was cut short when his sweetheart, Mary, wrote him a letter saying things weren’t going to work out. Unwilling to let the girl he met at Baptist dance night go, he immediately returned to Muskogee and convinced her otherwise. When she asked why, he said her cooking was just too good to pass up. Using the funds from the pawning of his most expensive possession, his trumpet, he eloped with Mary and married her that same day. The night after the ceremony, they each returned to their own family’s houses, undoubtedly full of new plans.
Soon enough they had enough money to get the trumpet back, and their own place too, and the future looked rosy. But when the Korean War broke out, David was shipped off to the Far East. Mary was left at home, an event that caused her to hold a grudge against President Truman for the rest of her life.
David shipped out as part of the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma National Guard in September 1950 at the age of 21, and served as a field radio operator until May 1952. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge, the UN Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with 1 bronze service star, and the Army Occupation Medal (Japan). The 45th Infantry Division spent most of its time during the war defending an area of the front lines called Old Baldy Hill from Chinese forces. Old Baldy Hill is today located in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, 80 km due north of downtown Seoul. David said that he spent most of his time in Korea camped out in a line of foxholes, listening to distant artillery fire. He came back with frostbite and impaired hearing, but otherwise fine.
After he returned from the war, David got his Master’s degree in education and taught high school math and science courses for the next 40 years. The reunited couple quickly produced five children and a million stories. One of their daughters, Kathy, went to school and became a teacher herself. She married a man who had served as an Air Force intelligence officer monitoring the Korean DMZ for suspicious activity. Eventually they had three sons. The oldest traveled to Korea as well to do some writing. He also learned to play his grandfather’s trumpet, and hopes to pawn it some day too.
David Gambrell Morris was well-known in his later years for his skill at the piano, the trumpet, and the harmonica. He and his wife Mary could, and did, give impromptu concerts on many occasions. He was also a well-known math tutor in the town of Muskogee after his retirement. He knew a lot of good stories, and I’m going to miss him.
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