Jean Lavone Church Morgan, also known as Ma to the many friends and family who love her, was born on November 8, 1922, at home in Dighton, Kansas. She was the first child of Mary Durham Church and Richard Church. They had met at his sister’s store after he returned from fighting in France. Ma had two sisters, Joyce and JoAnn, and a brother Kenneth Richard. As she grew up, her father owned and operated a mechanic shop and eventually a Chrysler dealership. Ma remembered her childhood fondly, even as she lived through the terrible dust storms of the 1930s. She recalled spending days shrouded in a bathroom as the dust whirled outside and inside their house. After the storm abated, the children crawled into the attic and hauled away bucked after bucked of silky-fine dirt. Mary Church was worried that the added weight would collapse her ceilings.
Ma was active and studious in high school. After she graduated, she qualified to receive a temporary teaching certificate. In the fall of 1940, she began teaching in a rural elementary school. For the next 5 years, she taught at several of these kinds of schools where she met the Masch family, who adored their Miss Church. Fay, the mother, had five handsome brothers, and one by one they were introduced to Miss Church. “John and Jack were nice” she would say later, “but there were no sparks.” But on Fay’s third try, there was lots of electricity. Miss Church and Marine PFC Allen Morgan both claimed to have fallen in love immediately. After their meeting, Allen headed to Marine Paratrooper School, and they corresponded. On February 22nd, 1945, Allen was severely wounded on Iwo Jima. His recovery was long and arduous. He endured surgery after surgery. On November 11, 1945, Jean and Allen were married in a small ceremony in Dighton, Kansas, even though he was still recovering. At the time, Allen breathed through a hole in his throat and could not speak. He would often joke that Jean was required to love, honor, and obey him, but he had no such obligation, as he had not actually spoken the words. Jean countered with the note he had written, that proclaimed, “I do.”
After many more surgeries, Allen’s breathing and voice were restored. Eventually, Jean joined him in Washington, D.C., and then they settled in the Rio Grande Valley, near San Benito, Texas, to begin farming. Children Mary, Anna, and Richard were born there. In the fall of 1950, they bought 700 acres along Yocum Creek near Blue Eye. Robert and John were born soon after.
In 1962 Jean was drafted to teach math at Green Forest Junior High when Cletus Teter fell ill. This experience rekindled her teaching passion, and soon she resumed the long trek toward a bachelor’s degree. She took correspondence courses, drove to Fayetteville on Saturdays, and rented a cottage there for several summer school sessions. During this time, she taught Head Start and Elementary School at Oak Grove.
After graduation, in 1970, she began teaching in Blue Eye, mostly 3rd grade, until she retired in 1992, having accumulated 36 years in education. But even then, she subbed for another 5 years.
During her life in the Ozarks, Jean served as Mayor of Oak Grove for 37 years, and was instrumental in establishing a fire department and bringing city water to the town.
She was the kindest, most compassionate, generous, accepting, and caring of people. She is survived by her 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother, and beloved husband Allen.
Visitation will be 5:00 pm ~ 7:00 pm Sunday, July 28, 2019 at Charles M. Nelson Memorial Chapel in Berryville. Funeral services Monday, July 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm at Blue Eye First Baptist Church in Blue Eye with Bro. Larry Keeth Officiating. Memorial donations to Blue Eye School, PO Box 38, Blue Eye, Missouri 65611. Online condolences may be sent to the family at nelsonfuneral.com.