Sunday, December 08, 2013

My friend Sam Morehead...peace

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of Sam least not one digitized, but many of you knew him. If you did not, let me introduce him to you.

When we moved to Michigan in 1972 one of the first things we did was to locate a church. After moving six times in the previous seven years we found this was a good way to meet people who shared common interests and values. During that time Fennville United Methodist was loaded with young couples with children about the same ages as ours: Fleming, McWee, Hafer, Howard, Haist, Motz, Sievert, Clarey, Alexander, Kratzer and Morehead to name a few. Sam, principal  and big brother age to most of us... referred to us younger folk as "Jet Setters". That was just one of many names he hung on various ones of us. It was his Southern Illinois, homey style. We discovered that he gave you a name or coined a phrase about you if he liked you...and the feeling was mutual.

We got to know each other that first year and he sensed that I was looking to get off the corporate merry-go-round of Campbell Soup. And he knew I had gone to college to be a teacher. He was the principal of the newly formed Middle School and was looking to build his staff. So he did some not so subtle recruiting: "I know I can't pay you what you are making at Campbell Soup," he said, "but since your sweetie pie got a job teaching, the two of you together should be able to make a go of it." It took me two weeks to accept his offer and for the next 13 years I settled into teaching Middle School kids in Fennville; some of the best years of my life.Thanks, Sam.

Sam was a WWII veteran of the Pacific Campaign: GI Bill, new family, smart math teacher, and coach...all the can-do things that those of his generation brought to the table in the early 1950s. He was "old school." He expected hard work and devotion to duty. That was his style...just as sure as blackberries are red when they're he used to say.

Sam became a mentor, at school, in our church, Lions Club and in the larger community. He had one speed and that was long was good for kids. That is how he measured what he did. When Louise McWee became deathly ill her family came from the Thumb Area of Michigan to be with her and her young family, they stayed in our church...ate, slept, and vectored out to the various hospitals they needed to visit. Sam took them under his wing and tried to meet every need. "Step and a half" is what Louise's dad nicknamed him because he anticipated their every need and was a step...and a half...ahead of them. That was Sam's Style. He saw to it we took a parade of cars over to Yale for her funeral. He always knew what the best thing to do would be.

He had four teacher's on his staff in those early years who loved to sing and he brought us together to form a quartet singing gospel hymns and other old time favorites. "The Faculty Four" he called us and became our booking the place where we had to cry uncle. If it were not for Sam we would not have formed that group and sung those songs...and we did love to sing. I thank him for encouraging us to sing.

Sam was Fennville Basketball to most of the community...long time coach and having the field house there named after him and his wife Haide (Ada). They supported the school long after retirement and established the Hustle and Harmony Scholarship there. Sam used home made note paper made with the header of "Hustle and Harmony, the Recipe of Champions." You always knew who it was from when you saw that header...preferably in Black and Orange.  He preached: God first, others second, and self third...and yes he preached it. Not sure that would be as readily accepted today as it was 20-30 years ago. But he made no apologies...for that is how he lived his life.

He loved his five girls: Jody, Heddy, Vicki, Meri-lou and Tammy...and our family had an attachment to each of them over the years. We were welcome in their home and enjoyed our time with them as teacher, parent, adult, or co-worker. And I thank Sam for that.

He once told me that when he died he wanted me to sing How Great Thou Art at his funeral...and I humored him about that. So the call came today and while I would loved to have obliged, age has taken my hearing to the extent I do not sing solos anymore, but I will be singing in my heart this week leading up to his service.

When we moved west at the end of 2005 we knew we would be leaving behind friendships, which would include weddings, births, baptisms, and deaths of those who had become our surrogate family over the years and that we would not be able to embrace the loved ones whose lives will be now empty with the passing of their family members. But that does not mean that there will be any less of a hole in our heart as we miss those events and those folk. So, thank you, Sam: big brother, mentor, boss, friend, and confidante. You will be missed.


DawnS said...

Precious post, Mr. Lutz. Thank you. I know your heart aches, but so grateful for the GIFT of Mr. Morehead and Mr. Lutz in our lives, when some of us were too young and ignorant to appreciate it. You helped guide us and you loved us and you taught us how to love to learn. It's a gift that keeps giving.

I've been reflecting on "Hustle and Harmony," and although I was not an athlete at FMS or FHS, I was an avid fan. And now that I'm an avid fan and mom of boys who play basketball, this phrase "hustle and harmony" reaches deep. I just might become THAT MOM cheering it in the stands!

Thank you for sharing this tribute!

Mike Schuelke said...

Thanks Mr. Lutz; that was a fantastic tribute to a truly remarkable man.

Tom said...

Thanks for your thoughts...great to see all the support for Mr. Morehead.

Bill Winter said...

Tom, what a great blog and tribute to Sam. You really captured who this man was. I played against some of the teams he coached and always had a great deal of respect for him. We enjoyed some great coversations on the sidelines at the Fennville/Saugatuck basketball games in his later years. Great memories. Thanks for sharing.