As Morris Furcron approaches his 90th birthday, there’s been talk of dedicating a day in honor of the lifetime Wellington resident, Well-Help president, and former police chief.
At his home Monday, Furcron downplayed the need for such an occasion.
“I don’t think anything like that is necessary,” he said. “I do what I do to give back for some of the things I’ve received. I’ve been a little under the weather lately, and I’ve received a lot of help in terms of cards and visitors. That’s all the recognition I think I need.”
Furcron was Wellington police chief from 1983 to 1995 and continued to serve the village as building and zoning inspector before resigning in 2015.
Well-Help, of which he has been president since 2011, raises $280,000 annually to provide food for low-income residents and families. He’s also president of the Wellington Kiwanis and regularly drives the village’s bus for senior citizens.
“When my mother and father got sick, they had meals delivered to the house,” he said. “The ambulance district had to come to the house several times and I always appreciated their service. I just decided that when I retired I wanted to help people like my parents.”
Growing up during the Great Depression gave Furcron perspective on what it’s like to have too little.
“If you walk barefoot on concrete in the summertime, it’s usually very hot on your feet,” Furcron said. “My brothers and sisters and I did it so much that our feet built up a tolerance to the heat. We didn’t have extra money but we had food, clothes, and one pair of good shoes.”
“One time as a teenager I was in a clothing store run by Bob Herrick,” he said. “He told me I could pick anything out I wanted and put money toward it until it was paid off. I always remembered that. It was the first charge account I ever had.”
Furcron briefly left Wellington in 1946 to train as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
“When I saw those tanks up close I really wanted to drive one,” he said. “But what they needed was paratroopers. I had a friend who went airborne before me, so I knew a little about it. He sold me on it.”
Basic training was at Fort Bragg, N.C., where Furcron said it didn’t take long to encounter racism that Wellington had provided shelter from.
“I was in the 555th Battalion and it was segregated,” he said. “It wasn’t as bad in Wellington as what I saw other places. My parents were born and raised in Georgia, so they tried to fill me in on what it was going to be like. I was put in an all black outfit right away at Fort Bragg. You came into contact with white soldiers but no one really talked to each other that much.
“At a restaurant down there, I knew I was supposed to go around back but I decided to just go in the front,” he said. “They said I couldn’t be served. They said we had our own places to go to.”
Furcron briefly touched on a local reminder of that era, the continued sale of the Confederate flag at the Lorain County Fair.
“I don’t like it. It’s not respectful,” he said. “The fellas who are showing it had nothing to do with the Civil War and I’m not sure why they’re so proud of it anyway. One time, when the controversy first started, I was home working on the yard. About a dozen pickup trucks went by flying that flag. They came by the house multiple times and blew the horn. I don’t know if that was because they saw me, but they only blew it at my house. This was just in the past few years.”
Nevertheless, Furcron said he still considers the village a great place to raise a family.
“I don’t know as many people as I used to but there are so many good ones here,” he said. “I want the village to continue to grow and remember to find ways to help our seniors. Wellington also shouldn’t get too big too fast. If we never became a city that’d be perfectly fine with me. We just dedicated a beautiful baseball field and the community has come together for great things like the new McCormick and Lindley Center.”
Mayor Hans Schneider said the formal naming of a Morris Furcron Day hasn’t moved beyond a few isolated conversations. But he said “Mo,” as he’s affectionately known, has made a special mark in the community.
“I’ve known Mo since I was a little kid,” said Schneider. “He’s an example of the best Wellington has to offer, an exceptional man and exceptional leader. I’d be hard pressed to know anyone who could say a negative word about him. The man is beloved. If we had more Mo Furcrons, we’d have less problems in the world.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.