Dwayne Morgan loved life and helping people in all kinds of ways.
One of those ways was as a longtime firefighter with Baldwin County Fire Rescue.
Firefighting and commanding scenes in a fire or rescue operation was a huge part of who Morgan was for so many years, according to Baldwin Fire Rescue Chief Victor Young.
Sad news hit the county Monday morning when it was learned that Morgan had died at Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta.
Several residents knew him personally and thought much of him.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Young said, noting that he and Morgan had known each other since 1994. “That’s when he came aboard with Baldwin County Fire Rescue.”
Morgan started his career as a firefighter at the West Baldwin Fire Station. His assigned call number was 801.
It wasn’t too long before Morgan began climbing the ladder of leadership within the county fire department. He later rose to the rank of chief station officer and then captain.
Even though he retired from the fire department several years ago, Morgan still visited with fire headquarters and kept his close friendships with firefighters and fire officials.
One of those longtime friendships was formed with Young.
“Dwayne was a person that you could depend on,” Young said. “If there was any sort of task that needed to be done, Dwayne was the man to call upon. We called Dwayne many, many times about different things and he was always so willing to help out.”
Young described Morgan as a firefighter’s firefighter — one of the biggest compliments that can be bestowed upon someone who lived to help others.
“He loved to talk on the radio,” Young said. “He could really lead a command center situation.”
Young said during Morgan’s many years with the fire department, he always knew if Morgan wasn’t already at the scene of a fire or rescue operation that he was en route.
“You could always count on Dwayne in any situation,” Young said. “He loved helping people in any way he could help them.”
Wesley Nunn and Bruce Vaughn, two more of Morgan’s close friends, traveled to the hospital in Augusta early Monday and escorted the hearse back to Milledgeville.
Deputies with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, along with firefighters from Baldwin County Fire Rescue, met them at the county line and led them the rest of the way to the funeral home.
Nunn is commander of the Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, which is based in Milledgeville, and serves several counties in middle and east central Georgia. Vaughn, meanwhile, is a businessman in downtown Milledgeville.
“He was just a big old teddy bear,” Nunn said of his longtime friend. “He was always willing to help someone. He always had great ideas for implementing and putting things in order for different organizations and he was good at raising money for charitable events in our community.”
Nunn recalled attending the Exchange Club Christmas Parade one year.
“While playing the role as one of Santa Claus’s helpers, he saw my daughter, Lisa, and yelled out her name and threw her some extra candy,” Nunn said.
Nunn also pointed out that Morgan was one of his longtime cooking partners along with Vaughn.
“All three of us have cooked a lot of meals together over the years and we never charged anybody,” Nunn said. “We just loved to cook together.”
A lot of that cooking was done over the years at First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville.
Nunn said he will miss his close friend.
“Life is short,” Nunn said. “But you never really know how short it is until someone close to you passes away, and you say, ‘Wow, you knew that person for a long time, but it sure makes you feel like it was for just a short time.’”
Dwayne and his wife, Renee, worked tirelessly at First United Methodist Church, and throughout the community. Both were members of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Posse Unit. Dwayne headed up many safety classes with that community organization that works under the direction of Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and members of his command staff.
Massee described Morgan’s death as a terrible loss to the local public safety community.
“For the last several years, he had served as manager of our posse group,” Massee said. “And it was great to have him because he was CPR certified trained; he was Stop the Bleed certified-trained, and knew a lot about public safety issues.”
The sheriff said Morgan was special to many people.
Jeff and Amanda Petty remember first meeting Dwayne and Renee as young parents who had recently joined the church as new members.
“Dwayne and Renee quickly became like family,” said Amanda, who serves as one of the Superior Court judges within the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. “Dwayne was always waiting to greet you every Sunday with an enormous hug. He had a unique way of making every person who knew him feel special.”
Amanda said she believed that was what made Morgan such a good Santa Claus helper.
“When you were in a conversation with Dwayne, you had his undivided attention and you could see the kindness in his eyes,” Petty said.
The judge said without a doubt, she knows she could have called Morgan at any time — day or night — and he would have answered her call without hesitation.
“That was his calling in life — helping others,” Petty said. “He loved God, his family and his community, and he served them all well. His life is an example of how we should all strive to live. For those of us who were fortunate to call him a friend, we are better because of what Dwayne brought to each of our lives. His loss is immeasurable.”
Petty recalled that her fondest memories of being with Morgan were at Christmas with him serving as one of Santa’s helpers with Mrs. Claus.
“My boys have visited with him at Christmas since 2012,” Petty said. “Santa even came to our house for a surprise visit a couple of times and brought a special ornament and candy for our boys. As busy as he was, he always made time for us. There is no price that can be placed on the memories he provided to so many of us.”
Petty said one of the happiest times of his life came when he became a grandfather.
“He adored his grandson, Hudson,” Petty said. “And it was a pure joy to see them together.”
When it comes to remembering Dwayne Morgan, Deputy Justin Seymour is not lost for stories.
“I have a plethora of memories of Dwayne through the years,” Seymour said. “I have seen him work fire scenes and car crashes, teach medical classes, and I have even seen him as the big man who visits every year in December.”
Seymour said there was always one thing about him that remained the same.
“No matter the role he was in, Dwayne was always lending a helping hand to his fellow man,” Seymour said.
The same was true if someone was injured.
“Dwayne was business when it was time to be, but never to be busy to smile and comfort a person in time of need,” Seymour said.
The same fellow that he came across in the community was the same man people saw in church, the veteran deputy said.
“If you walked into First Methodist Church as a stranger, you would leave having met a new friend in Dwayne,” Seymour said. “If you were a student of his, you leave class knowing that he gave you everything you needed to succeed with your new learned skill.”
Without Morgan, the world is already a different place, Seymour said.
“But his memory will be the guiding light to remind people to be caring and compassionate human beings to your fellow man,” Seymour said. “The world could always use more people who have a servant’s heart like he did.”
Ashley Kennedy Bacon, executive director of Keep Milledgeville-Baldwin Beautiful, has fond memories of Morgan too.
“When reminded of Dwayne, I think of Mathew 5:13-16,” Bacon said. “He truly was the salt and the light and he always made the effort to go above and beyond for mankind.”
Bacon said Morgan’s impact on the community would remain his legacy.
“The example he set for those around him is priceless,” Bacon said.
She said she would always remember the twinkle in his eyes as he pulled her children up on his knee while playing the role of a helper for Santa Claus during the Christmas season.
That was something Morgan did for many years, and like so many other things he did, he loved every minute of it. He was once quoted as saying that playing the role was a year-round obligation because he was often recognized by children even when it wasn’t Christmas.
Bacon said Morgan would then, in his gentle voice and dressed in his handcrafted red suit, proceed to ask her children what they wanted for Christmas.
Bacon said she will forever treasure those countless memories.