As part of the fourth generation to run Morgan Construction Co., a steel equipment manufacturing business, Paul S. Morgan inherited his family’s legacy of leadership, philanthropy, and civic involvement in Worcester.
World traveler and community activist, politician and family man, he was rarely at rest. Nearing the end of his ninth decade, he still spent some of his spare time cleaning and maintaining the woods around his Duxbury home.
“He always just enjoyed getting out in the woods,” said his son Daniel of Marion. “It was doing something active, but it was also a place where he could be alone and have his own thoughts.”
While working in his woods Sept. 23, Mr. Morgan decided to take a load of brush to a dump station in Duxbury. En route, he had a heart attack, and his car went off the road and hit a tree. Mr. Morgan died in Jordan Hospital in Plymouth. He was 88.
Mr. Morgan had suffered a mild heart attack at 58, which prompted him to quit smoking.
“He was talking about having his 90th birthday party and feeling fit and healthy,” said his oldest son, Philip of Boston. “He was fully engaged up until the last moment of his life.”
Specializing in high-speed wire rod mills, Morgan Construction was a leader in the field “because of my father’s development in the ’60s; he cemented our technical lead,” said Philip, who joined the business in 1974 and was president and chief executive until it was sold to Siemens VAI Metal Technologies in 2008.
“My job is at least to maintain our fine worldwide reputation at a time when technology is moving faster than ever before,” Mr. Morgan wrote in his 25th Harvard class report.
“Attracting and keeping outstanding engineers and knowledgeable industry men has been the secret so far. It’s a daily thrill and challenge.”
Daniel was senior vice president of Morgan Construction and chairman and chief executive of the company’s branch in China.
“You do all the things a father and son would do together,” he said. “But then getting into business, I got the opportunity to work with my father in a professional capacity, and in that sense he was a different guy. He was a real force in business, and he really made things happen.”
Born in Worcester, Paul Shepard Morgan was a graduate of the Bancroft School, a private preparatory school in Worcester, and of what is now the Governor’s Academy in Byfield.
He studied English at Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1945. While there, Mr. Morgan met Anne Murray, who is known as Nancy. They met through concerts of the Harvard Glee Club, of which he was treasurer, and married in 1947.
Mr. Morgan served as a Navy officer and worked for Laclede Steel Co. in Alton, Ill., for a year before joining Morgan Construction. His family’s business, founded in 1888, designed and manufactured steel mill equipment.
Mr. Morgan began on the assembly floor and in 1965 took over as president after his father, Philip, died of a heart attack at 69.
Through the years, Mr. Morgan worked with business organizations, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Worcester Industrial Council, the Worcester Young Businessmen’s Association, and Worcester’s Chamber of Commerce.
He also was a participant in local, state, and national politics.
“After working hard for Ike [Dwight D. Eisenhower] in 1952, I was bitten by the political bug and ran for City Council in the fall of 1953; even got elected,” he wrote in his 10th Harvard class report.
Elected twice to Worcester’s City Council, he also served on the city’s Republican committee and the Republican State Committee.
He attended the Republican National Convention in 1956 and 1968.
After moving to Shrewsbury in 1960, Mr. Morgan became a member of the town’s Planning Board and the Republican Town Committee.
As had others in previous generations of his family, Mr. Morgan devoted much time and donated money to nonprofit agencies.
In 1989, the City of Worcester presented him and his wife with the Isaiah Thomas Award for outstanding community service.
“There was a family culture of giving back, of being involved with the community,” Philip said.
A trustee emeritus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mr. Morgan had chaired its board of trustees in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The institute awarded him an honorary doctorate of engineering in 1995.
He also served as a director or trustee of several organizations and institutions in the Worcester region, including the Hoche-Scofield Foundation, the Higgins Armory Museum, and Friendly House, and of the Pilgrim Society in Plymouth.
“He was interested in just a wide variety of things,” Daniel said. “The common denominator was civic involvement. He taught us the same thing: that it’s important to give back.”
In 2004, Mr. Morgan retired from Morgan Construction as chairman, but up to his death continued to serve as an adviser to Hazelett Strip-Casting Corp. in Colchester, Vt.
“He was just an unstoppable force,” Daniel said. “He enjoyed life thoroughly, 100 percent of the time, going full speed ahead.”
Mr. Morgan made it to all seven continents, taking a cruise to Antarctica in 1999 with his daughter Anne of Boyce, Va.
Much of his traveling was for business, however, such as the time he took a 13-hour sleeper train ride from Beijing to Mongolia, a trip that Mr. Morgan called “very uncomfortable and untidy” in his 50th Harvard class report.
A self-described forester, Mr. Morgan loved clearing and maintaining the 5 acres of wooded grounds around his Duxbury home, but noted in his 60th Harvard class report that his roots would always be in Worcester.
In addition to his wife, two sons, and daughter, Mr. Morgan leaves another daughter, Margaret Grasselli of Arlington, Va.; a brother, Peter of Worcester; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial gathering will be held Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. in Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester.
Even though his commitments were many, family was Mr. Morgan’s “chief nonbusiness interest,” he wrote in his 15th Harvard class report. “With the years flying by so quickly, I feel it is most important to be with them as much as possible, to enjoy their experiences, and to steer them whenever possible down the road of a good Christian life.”
Mr. Morgan “was a wonderful dad, and I’m lucky I got to share my life with him,” Daniel said.
“Even at 88, it’s still a surprise, because he was going so strong.”Melissa Werthmann can be reached at email@example.com.