Remembering - Don Morse...
On December 15, 2011, the Arabian horse community lost one of its most remarkable friends - Don Morse of Freeport, Illinois and Scottsdale, Arizona. Don, together with his beloved wife Janey, owned Oak Ridge Arabians, home of numerous national champions and prized Arabian horses.
Don Morse was described by many as a very successful man. His life seems to perfectly embody this famous quote from the classic author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; that is to have succeeded.
Don Morse was a giant of a man with an imposing stature. He filled a room with his presence, his huge heart, his generous spirit, his love of laughter, and his love of the Arabian horse. David and Terry Ann Boggs and Don and Janey Morse were very close friends. David shared some of their good times together, "Terry Ann and I were blessed the day we were introduced to Don and Janey Morse at Scottsdale in 1997, by our great friends, Riley and Mary Meyers, owners of the wonderful Padrons Psyche son, FS Ritz, who we showed to Scottsdale Champion Stallion that year. I think it was that experience, seeing the amazing beauty and loving character of the Arabian horse that captured Don and Janey's hearts. Throughout the show and afterward, Don and Janey attended many of the open houses and presentations we hosted. They just loved the people and the horses; it wasn't long before they bought their first Arabian horse from us.
Don's passion and love of the breed grew quickly, he was so into the horses! He enjoyed learning; and he studied pedigrees and bloodlines with me, he studied conformation, he was constantly asking questions of me and breeders he respected, and he loved to have judging contests using his own horses for critique. Don would never allow himself to be barn blind; he was extremely committed to breeding the best Arabian horse possible. Over the years, Don and Janey collected an amazing group of mares and stallions. They travelled with us abroad to Brazil, Argentina, all over Europe, and they attended many of the biggest international shows including the Salon du Cheval in Paris, and others. Don and Janey purchased horses on many of these trips from top breeders including our dear friends from Argentina, Fernando de Santibanes of Haras Mayed and Lady Gina Pelham of Haras La Catalina. One of Don and Janey's favorite horses they owned was the Magnum Psyche daughter, JJ La Estrella, bred by Fernando de Santibanes. JJ La Estrella earned six national championship and reserve championship titles - more than any other Magnum daughter. Janey showed Estrella to U.S. National Champion Mare, AOTH. Don and Janey also purchased Fausto CRH in Brazil, and owned him at the time he was named Brazilian National Champion.
One of our greatest adventures, and for sure one of the most fun, was when Don and Janey formed a partnership with our longtime friends Dan and Maureen Grossman and together they purchased Vitorio TO, an awesome bay, yearling colt, bred by our friends Ed and Maureen Horton and sired by the Grossman's legendary stallion, DA Valentino. This was an unbeatable team, and that same year, Vitorio TO was U.S. National Champion Yearling Colt. Don and Janey bought full interest in Vitorio a year later, and since then, he has earned four more national championships in Canada, the U.S., and Brazil. Vitorio's most recent wins at the 2011 U.S. National Championships were unbelievable - three national titles at one show! What an amazing time! We had so much fun, so much laughter... I never dreamed it would be our last show together...
To me, Don Morse was larger than life. I've never met another man quite like him. He had such a great vision of life. He was an extremely successful businessman, always had great advice, and was willing to share it with others, especially young people. He wanted to see them succeed and fulfill their dreams. He was a very positive and generous man. He believed in helping those in need. He made tremendous contributions to the Arabian Industry in many ways including the Arabian Horseman's Distress Fund, the Youth Nationals, and so much more.
I learned my most important life lessons from Don Morse by watching his example. He was a great person. He was kind to everyone and always had a smile. He had such great energy, and he lived the philosophy of work hard, play hard. He enjoyed life to the fullest. He was a great friend to Terry Ann and I. In fact, we are proud to say that he was Godfather to our son Jake. Don was a great father and grandfather - he loved his family. But most of all, Don loved his wife Janey! He worshiped the ground she walked on and they were a great team! Don and Janey are a huge part of our family - that will never change.
They say that you are remembered for the contributions you make, not for all the things you take. Don Morse made huge contributions to this world and he will always be remembered for his kindness and generosity. Don appreciated beauty; he always brought out the best in others; and he certainly left this world a better place. If we can follow his example, then maybe we will be remembered with as much love and respect as we have for our dear friend, my best friend, Don Morse."
Terry Ann Boggs was especially close to Don and Janey Morse. Her words about Don are articulate and heartfelt, "If you never had the pleasure of meeting our great friend Don Morse, you missed out on one of God's finest. If you did know Don or had the opportunity of being in his presence, then you know what a light he was to this world. Don made everyone feel special, the twinkle in his eye - it was real happiness that overflowed from his heart.
Don never knew a stranger. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, deserved or not. He was loyal, honest and didn't know the meaning of undermining anyone. I believe that is why he was so successful in every aspect of his life.
The bible says, "you will know them by their fruit". The fact that hundreds of people waited 2 hours in line to pay their respects to Don and his beautiful wife, Janey, speaks volumes to me. What an honor and blessing to have called him our friend; to have him be our son Jake's Godfather; to have walked with him and learned from his wisdom of life and the people in it. I will miss him telling me..."Hey, there's something on your shirt", only to tweak my nose every time I fell for it. He had the exuberant joy of a small child and yet he was larger than life - all mixed in to one great person that Janey will always call "her Big guy". Until we meet him again in heaven, our hearts will miss his presence."
In addition to Don Morse's success in the Arabian horse industry, he was a successful businessman. Don's father and mother started Morse Electric in 1944. Don's father passed away at a young age and Don, Jr. went to support his mother at Morse Electric. Together with his mother, brother Dave, and an amazing group of co-workers, they grew the company to a geographical reach that included operations in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Nevada. Over the years, Don's vision for Morse Electric allowed the company to expand its reach and expertise in the world of electrical construction, engineering, design, maintenance, high voltage work and electrical testing. Today, The Morse Group has expanded to serve customers throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with services that also encompass sound & lighting, custom assembly, hardware/software integration and energy efficiency. As a testament to Don Morse's character and life work, Morse Electric received both the Thomas H. Madigan Outstanding Business Achievement Award and the Illinois Family Business of the Year Awards in 1999.
Don Morse knew that the joy of success in his business and personal life was to share it with others. When shared, it is never diminished, only multiplied. The Arabian horse community loved Don Morse for his generous spirit and when he is remembered it will be with a smile.
Rest in peace.