Santa Clarita resident Chuck Morris, a Korean War veteran and a regular supporter of veterans’ activities in the Santa Clarita Valley, died of heart failure at the age of 87 early in the morning on Dec. 19 in his home, those close to him said.
A family man and a well-known community activist, Morris initiated the process of bringing the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to the SCV in 2013. According to Morris’s daughter, Stephanie Agnew, her dad had been battling heart issues since August. He was a car salesman, she told The Signal in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, and that’s how he was able to make such an impact on the community.
“He’s always been a salesman,” Agnew said. “He got a lot of people to listen to him and help him on things like the Boys & Girls Club, with all the donations. That’s how he got everybody to help with the (Traveling Vietnam Memorial) Wall. He’d talk to anyone.”
Morris was born on Feb. 9, 1935, in Chicago, and he moved to the San Fernando Valley in his teens. He served in the United States Army between 1952 and 1954, and during his service, he was awarded the Army of Occupation-National Defense Medal. He received an honorable discharge with the rank of private first class.
Morris got into selling cars after his military service, working at almost every auto dealership in the San Fernando Valley, his daughter said. In 1956, he got married to Barbara Clark (whose grandfather, David L. Clark, founded the D.L. Clark Company, known for their many confections, including the Clark Bar). Morris and his wife had two children. Agnew’s brother died of leukemia in 2009.
Morris retired around 1992, Agnew said, adding that her parents moved to Santa Clarita soon after to “live the good life.”
According to those who knew him, Morris volunteered his time to many veterans organizations, including the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center Veterans Club, the Veterans Advocacy Network Inc., Operation Gratitude, the Friendly Valley Veterans Club and Habitat for Heroes.
Bob Kellar, president of the Veterans Memorial Committee and a former Santa Clarita city councilman, said Morris was a tremendous figure in the community, particularly to its veterans.
“I have known Chuck Morris for probably 15 to 20 years,” he told The Signal on Wednesday morning. “He was very active and a huge support of all of our veteran activities here in Santa Clarita for years, and not the least of which he was on the committee that helped the development of the Veterans Plaza in Newhall.”
The Veterans Historical Plaza in Old Town Newhall, a project that the city of Santa Clarita began in 2000, is a highlight in the community to veterans, intended to be a place of serenity and reflection that includes water features and a fallen warriors monument honoring military vets of the SCV who were killed in action.
In September of 2013, Morris was also instrumental in bringing the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to the Westfield Valencia Town Center in Santa Clarita during a four-day exhibition to remember Americans who perished in the conflict. The wall, a three-fifths scale model of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., stood 6 feet tall at the center and covered about 300 feet from one end to the other.
In June of 2014, then-Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R- Santa Clarita, honored Morris as Veteran of the Year for the 38th Assembly District, which encompassed Simi Valley, the northern section of the San Fernando Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wilk told The Signal on Wednesday afternoon that Morris’ death is a huge blow to the community.
“Chuck gave his all to this community,” he said. “He was willing to lend a helping hand to anyone that required it, and (he was) just a sweet, sweet, sweet man, and I’m very, very upset today about this.”
Morris is survived by his wife of 66 years, their daughter, granddaughters Danielle Mauch and Kelsey Gordon, and great grandchildren Nathaniel Mauch, Peyton McCart and Hailey Craig.