The magic of Paul Morgan

Paul Morgan was a magician.

Paul, who passed away May 13 at the age of 95, was one of the early leaders of the John Knox Presbyterian Church’s community food bank, which is now known as the Keizer Community Food Bank housed at Faith Lutheran Church.

I met Paul on a Thursday morning, about 15 years ago, before the food bank opened for the day. Paul talked at length about the work being done, what was needed in terms of community support and his plans to expand capacity to meet growing hunger. His enthusiasm was boundless and infectious. He introduced me to volunteers from the John Knox congregation, others who had walked in off the street with a yen to help and still more who were former clients of the food bank. As I departed, Paul was overly appreciative for an article I hadn’t even started writing much less published.

The sum of the experience that day instilled in me a mission to write the best story of my career to honor the work that was being done. I still remember the burning tears in my eyes trying to digest what I had seen: magic, in the real world, as tangible as anything the five senses can detect.

Paul and I remained in relatively close contact. We attended meetings together to talk about the future of the food bank, expanding partnerships with Marion Polk Food Share and strategizing how the paper could help in all of it. We conspired together to help people in need. Precious little in my life before or since felt so pure.

Even when health concerns kept him from taking part in the daily affairs of the food bank, Paul was stalwart. He and his wife Nancy were present during the service hours as often as they could. Together they were an even greater force to be reckoned with.

I’ve returned to the food bank too many times to count since that first story. Usually to write about it, but sometimes just to volunteer, to help clients shop and load their cars the way Paul taught me. Paul is the reason I started taking my kid to the Marion Polk Food Share to sort food when she was in kindergarten. He is the reason they still ask to help out at food banks when the time is available and the mood strikes.

Frequently, I think back to that first day in Paul’s orbit and try to dissect its resonance. Paul taught me to believe in magic. Or reminded me how to see it. Or simply revealed its true form.

Magic isn’t the sleight-of-hand of Houdini and David Copperfield. Magic requires at least two people, always. Magic is bringing people together despite every reason to remain apart for the common purpose of helping strangers. We summon magic together and it lives on long after the curtains close.

Paul Morgan was a magician.

(Eric A. Howald is the managing editor of the Keizertimes. His family is donating $100 to the food bank this week in honor of Paul Morgan. We encourage everyone in the Keizer community to join us in whatever capacity you can. Donations can be made online at tinyurl.com/kcfb-morgan or in person at Faith Lutheran Church.)