Courtside Memorial: Woodstock Basketball Honors Teammate's Mother
James Morgan Jr. embraces his uncle John Ray Jr. and aunt Laura Chandler before a boys’ basketball game last night in Woodstock. Morgan’s mother died in an automobile accident last week and her memory was honored last night.(Rob Strong photograph)
Laura Chandler cheers for her nephew James Morgan during last night’s Woodstock Union High School basketball game. Morgan’s mother was recently struck and killed by a driver.(Rob Strong photograph)
James Morgan Jr. embraces his teammates on the Woodstock High School boys basketball team in before the game against Mill River. (Rob Strong photograph)
James Morgan Jr., warms up for the Woodstock High School boys basketball team -- he wore an armband reading 'MOM' in honor of his mother, who died in an automobile accident last week. (Rob Strong photograph)
Woodstock — Before taking the court for Woodstock Union High School’s varsity basketball game last night, 17-year-old James Morgan, Jr., wrapped a black armband around his left arm. On the armband in white ink was the word “MOM.”
His teammates wore similar armbands with the initials “D.A.M.,” which stood for Drury Allen Morgan, who died on Dec. 28 after being struck by a car.
Prior to the game, James picked up two bouquets of roses — one red, one yellow — and asked his aunt and uncle to come to the half court line. Laura Chandler of Dover, N.H., and John Ray, Jr., of Strafford, N.H. — siblings of Drury Morgan — stepped onto the court and formed a triangular group hug around James.
The trio held each other close as a moment of silence was called. For 60 seconds, the family’s embrace did not falter, and the only sound that could be heard was the crinkling of the plastic wrap around the flowers. For a moment, it was as if they were the only people in the room.
Drury Morgan, the 45-year-old mother of James, had just picked up her paycheck on Dec. 28 at the Mendon Mountainview Lodge in Mendon, Vt., when she was crossing the street to reach a bus stop. Morgan was hit twice while crossing Route 4. The driver of the first vehicle drove off without stopping, and the second driver called state police. The accident is still under investigation, according to state police.
Morgan died only a few weeks before she was supposed to finish her LNA (Licensed Nurse Assistant) program at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland. She had also just taken a job about six weeks ago at the Mendon Mountainview Lodge, where she was a breakfast waitress and a housekeeper.
But the love of her life was her son. Morgan would call her 17-year-old son two or three times a day, said her boyfriend Andy Blanchard of Mendon.
Jeff Thomas, his basketball coach and Athletic Director for Woodstock Union High School, said he told James that he could take as long as he needed before he came back to the team.
But James choose to attend Monday’s practice, and when he arrived, his teammates surrounded him and formed a large circular hug.
“It’s interesting how the football team and basketball team have come together to support him in any way they can,” Thomas said. “It’s like a family.”
Members of the football and basketball teams are also planning to take a bus to Drury Morgan’s funeral in Rutland. A memorial service for Morgan will be held at 3:30 p.m. today at Aldous Funeral Home in Rutland. Visiting hours will precede the service at 2 p.m.
Drury Morgan used to live in Bridgewater before moving to Mendon with her boyfriend Blanchard. When Blanchard first met Morgan five years ago, he knew right away that she wanted to be a nurse.
While living in Bridgewater, she would often pass a building where elderly people lived, Blanchard said, and she was drawn inside by the people. Although she didn’t work there, she would volunteer to clean the bathrooms and she soon started making friends, especially with a man named Colin, who she called her best friend.
When she stopped at the grocery store, she’d call Colin and see if he needed bread or milk. She would buy him anything, except cigarettes, Blanchard said.
Morgan had already taken her finals at the Stafford Technical Center and had completed her clinical for her LNA program, Blanchard said.
“She used to say to me all the time that she wanted to work and help people,” Blanchard said.
In addition to her classes, Morgan had picked up a job only six weeks ago at the Mendon Mountainview Lodge. The Lodge reopened around Thanksgiving and the small staff of seven had to quickly prepare for the holiday season.
“We had a little bond going at work because we were all new and we were forming a little family together,” General Manager Patrick Boandl said.
Although Boandl didn’t know Morgan well, he said she had a big smile and personality and she laughed all the time. Most of the lodge’s staff plans to attend Morgan’s funeral today. And Boandl said the lodge’s staff plans to donate money to a fund for Morgan’s son.
Morgan’s brother Ray and sister Chandler both live in New Hampshire and had just seen Morgan during the holiday.
Ray said that he wasn’t always a great brother, and he regretted that he didn’t always keep in touch with Morgan. But they had reconnected during the last few years, and he said she seemed happy and peaceful during their holiday visit. He was looking forward to visiting Morgan more frequently in Vermont.
“I was accepting her, and I was looking forward to being a better brother. I will regret not having the opportunity to do that,” Ray said.
Chandler said Morgan sacrificed everything for her son. Most of her family lived in New Hampshire, and Chandler said Morgan could have moved to Portsmouth, which would be closer to her family and would have more job opportunities. But she refused to leave her son, who lives with his father in South Woodstock.
And since Morgan’s death, her son James has taken it upon himself to help plan his mother’s funeral. He even picked out the prayer cards.
“He has shown up as a young man that his mom would have been proud of,” Chandler said.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction ran in the Sunday, Jan. 6 edition of the Valley News:
Drury Allen Morgan, of Mendon, Vt., who died Dec. 28 after being struck by a car, worked at the Mendon Mountainview Lodge. Morgan’s first name and the name of the lodge were misspelled at one point in a story in yesterday’s Valley News.