George T. Morton
July 22, 1921 – August 26, 2019
From July 22, 1921, to Aug. 26, 2019, George Thomas Iro Morton, Jr., lived a full life of struggle and triumph. Born to George Thomas Iro Morton and Bonibel Morton in Toledo, the young George and his mother left probably in the late 1920s and moved to the Over the Rhine — “bring your own switchblade” as he put it— neighborhood in Cincinnati where he ran with a tough crowd. In his mid-teens, George faced a decision: go to school or eat. He opted for the latter and worked as a bookbinder’s assistant among other odd jobs. His spirituality began awakening and he attended a Lutheran church across the river in Covington, Ky. On Feb. 8, 1940, he declared his U.S. citizenship (he had held dual citizenship in Canada) when he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Thomas, Ky.; was bounced through the Army bureaucracies of Kentucky and New York; sailed south to the Panama Canal, north to San Francisco and from there traveled by fruit boat to Oahu. After basic training, he was assigned to the 27th Infantry — the “Wolfhounds” — and was further assigned to the small Army post of Fort Armstrong on the Honolulu Harbor.
Meanwhile, George took confirmation classes and became one of the first two confirmands of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in Hawai’i. He also pursued studies at the University of Hawai’i. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, he and a buddy skipped church to swim at Waikiki when the world changed forever. George returned to Fort Armstrong as the second wave of bombings began and martial law was declared. From then on, it was a series of musters, retrieving bodies from the airfields and bagging them, and nighttime conversations with his fellow soldiers about whether they would live through it all. He later would work at Fort DeRussy to experiment with frozen ammunition that might be used to liberate the Aleutian Islands captured by the Japanese. During the war years, he gained an appreciation for engineers because they, to him, were people who could assess situations and get things done. After the war, George earned a degree in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University, where he met Marian Wilt and they married in 1949. They moved to Cincinnati where he eventually was hired by General Electric as a manager and designer of jet engines . They lived in Clifton and eventually bought property in Finneytown on West Galbraith Road where they and some friends built the house that became the home for their three children — Tom, Paula and Andrew. In 1973, Hamilton County bought the house for a future exit of the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway. They moved to a mid-century modern house on Beechtree Drive until George and Marian, with the kids gone from the nest, moved to a nearby townhome. As befit a young engineer/executive and family man, George bought the ultimate family heirloom, a 1948 MG TC — “the sports car America loved first” — that was his daily driver in the 1960s. The MG is now in Tom’s loving care. Besides raising a family and working, George was active at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Norwood and later at Messiah Lutheran Church in Greenhills. In Boy Scouts and other activities, he took an intense interest in mentoring and befriending boys whose fathers were absent, which was his way to give to others what he did not receive in his youth. . In 1983, George and Marian moved to Soisy-sur-Seine about 35 miles south of Paris and he worked with General Electric and SNECMA to build jet engines. They traveled Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They returned to Cincinnati in 1986 and he soon retired which launched new adventures. For decades, George rarely talked about Pearl Harbor or his war experiences. But he and Marian went to Hawai’i in the late 1980s, visited the Arizona Memorial and nearly 50 years of repressed anguish erupted. He channeled that grief, and with and other veterans, established the Southwestern Ohio Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
George also became a docent at the Taft Museum — near his boyhood neighborhood — where he conducted tours and became an expert in antique French watches. France called again in the mid-1990s. He hefted a 14-pound backpack and hit the road in southern France for a month to explore Roman ruins. In 2010 George and Marian moved to Rockynol in Akron. George lived there until his death on Aug. 26. During his 98 years, George learned to make decisions and grow — staying an uneducated street kid probably would have turned out badly -- by joining the Army, getting an education, building his own house, raising kids without having a father of his own as a model, earning a couple of master’s degrees, nurturing piety, enduring a humiliating time of unemployment, moving on when the government took the very house he built, staying active during retirement when the temptation looms to just pack it in, and embracing eternity with open arms as the years wound down and the dementia took hold. He would say he was no more or less a hero during the war; no more or less a citizen with family, work and civic duties; and no more or less a Christian as he grew to know God. But to those who knew him, he was more than all of the above. George was preceded in death by his wife Marian, parents, and a half-brother, Iro Morton.
He is survived by his children Tom of Casper, Wyo., Paula of Aurora, Colo., and Andrew (Joyce) and their children Joshua, Elise and Sean of Wadsworth, Ohio. The funeral will be held at Fairlawn Lutheran Church, 3415 W. Market St., Fairlawn, Ohio, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3. Visitation is at 9:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Taft Museum at taftmuseum.org.
- The Taft Museum of Art
- Visitación Tuesday, September 3, 2019
- Funeral Service Tuesday, September 3, 2019