The movement to end Alzheimer’s disease has lost a giant. Dr. Richard L. Morgan passed away at age 93 on March 25. Dr. Morgan was a Presbyterian minister, prolific author, brilliant thinker, and a founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Clergy Network, which he called, “The legacy of the last chapter of my life.” What a life and what a legacy.
Dr. Morgan cared deeply about those living with dementia and their families. He put this into action in ways small and large, including writing extensively on aging and spirituality, and ministering to caregivers. He believed that people with dementia could – and should – continue living a spiritual life at a time when prevailing wisdom was these individuals were “gone” or “lost.” And Dr. Morgan believed that clergy and faith leaders have a critical role to play in supporting families facing dementia but needed to do more. And in 2014, thanks to his passion and determination, UsA2’s ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s Network was born.
ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s was the first national advocacy coalition bringing together leaders of all faiths in the fight against Alzheimer’s – supporting people affected by the disease in their communities and raising voices nationally in support of critical policies. In partnership with UsA2 and a dedicated team of multifaith volunteer advocates, members of the Clergy Network have spoken out on the moral imperative of increased funding for research and caregiver support policies. Network members wrote books to fill a gap in resources, including Seasons of Caring: Meditations for Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers and Dementia Friendly Worship. And the Clergy Network spurred creation of a web of “dementia friendly” faith communities across the country that are implementing innovative dementia support, education and research programs in churches, synagogues, and other faith communities. Faith leaders and communities are now seen as critical public health partners in supporting those living with dementia and family caregivers. That is part of Dr. Morgan’s legacy.
Personally, Dr. Morgan’s attitude toward life was inspiring. He never stopped working or ministering to caregivers. Despite the loss of his wife, Alice Ann, his own health challenges, and the pandemic, he continually found ways within his Redstone retirement community near Pittsburgh to reach people who needed help. And he never stopped writing, including his most recent book, Light of Setting Suns: Reflecting on Realities and Mysteries at Ninety Years of Life. Dr. Morgan wanted to give an insider’s account of his 90’s – wrestling with the challenges and continued possibilities.
And that is the other part of his legacy – a shining example of how to live a life of purpose, resilience and hope at any age. Inspiring is an overused word. And I have a feeling Dr. Morgan did not intend to inspire but he did. And we thank him for that.