Cathy Morgan: 'Help out' is her middle name
By Libby James
About Community Cornerstone Nominations
The guys on the Roosevelt National Forest trail crew call her the cookie
lady. Jane Clark at the Legacy Land Trust counts on her to "lick and stick"
whenever there's a mailing to get out. The finances of the Fort Collins
Running Club would be in a shambles, and the dogs and cats at Larimer County
Humane Society would be drinking their water and eating their food out
of dirty bowls, if it weren't for Cathy Morgan.
"Help out" is her middle name. Even so, the Fort Collins woman still has
time to play and laugh and travel, befriend every animal she meets and
pursue a list of "love to dos" that would make any ordinary person flop
over and lie quietly on the ground.
After 22 years of teaching, Morgan took the plunge and retired early. "It
was quit or burn out," she said. "I loved the kindergarteners, but dealing
with the parents and politics that went along with the job was stressful
A careful saver, Morgan had been stashing money away during her teaching
years knowing that one day her basic inclination toward play rather than
work would assert itself. While waiting for her pension to kick in when
she turned 50, Morgan worked at Teledyne Water Pik on the shower massage
assembly line and later in customer service.
"When the bell rang at the end of the day, that was it - nothing work-related
to stew about," she said.
A year later, she embarked on what she acknowledges is an enviable lifestyle
marked by a balance between physical exercise, community service and indulgence
in the things she loves to do. And there are many.
Wednesdays, weather permitting, she hikes with a group. Tuesdays and Thursdays
she's up at 5:30 a.m. to meet her buddies for an early morning run - dark,
cold and snow notwithstanding. Saturdays they ratchet down the time to
7 or 7:30 a.m. One new friend is having a tough time keeping Morgan's "groups"
straight. No wonder. There are the Scrabble players, the Supper Club, the
Wine Tasters, the Book Club and on a less regular basis, "Martini Nights."
While career jobs have little appeal for Morgan now, no one could call
this tiny blonde dynamo lazy. To earn a few extra bucks to make a special
trip possible, she works on Fridays filing paperwork for Burt's Logo Apparel
(formerly Burt's Shirts). She worked long days at an early vote center
this fall, and over the years she has eagerly taken on temporary, part-time
Morgan has never met a canine she didn't love. She grew up in Wichita,
Kan., with two brothers, a sister and Irish Setters. As an adult, she thoroughly
spoiled first Schultz, the Saint Bernard, then Great Pyrenees Boomer and
Ollie, and now Angus, an 8-year-old misbehaving Great Pyrenees-mutt. He
lives in a house where homemade dog biscuits are served and his birthday
is celebrated with hats and "frosty paws."
A hiker and cyclist for many years, Morgan got serious about running a
couple of years ago. Bringing a fine physique and "fresh legs" to the sport,
she has had amazing success winning her age group time and again in distances
as long as half-marathons.
"I love running for the sociability and the way it makes me feel," she
said. Serving as treasurer for the Fort Collins Running Club is her way
of doing her part for the sport.
She's a natural to help out at the Humane Society, and she does more than
sloshing slime from dog dishes. She writes thank-you notes to donors and
helps out with organizing an annual fund-raiser run, the Fire Hydrant Five.
Committed to preserving open land, Morgan sees the work of the Legacy Land
Trust as a win-win. She recently worked at Land Trust information booths
at the Sustainable Living Fair and Whole Foods and tended bar for a fund-raiser
at the new Poudre River Arts Center.
Spring and fall, the cookie lady swings into action, heading up to Cameron
Pass as part of a volunteer crew that maintains cross-country ski trails.
They haul down signs and directional poles in spring and return them in
the fall; they cut fallen trees, and generally see that the trails are
in good shape. Morgan isn't tall enough to reach some of the signs, but
the quality of her cookies evens things out.
Morgan began her working life in 1969 with a degree in occupational therapy
from Colorado State University and no job prospects in town. She worked
in retail for a time, and then commuted to the University of Northern Colorado
in Greeley for a graduate degree in special education that led to a position
at Cache La Poudre Elementary School. When a kindergarten teaching position
came open there, she took it. Two years later, she moved to Tavelli Elementary
where she taught for 20 years.
"When I worked, I was a weekend warrior," Morgan said. "My energy was consumed
by teaching. There was no time left over."
Now a jack-of-all-trades, she loves the freedom she has to "try new stuff."
Doing what she wants to do doesn't wear her out, Morgan observed.
Some might question that assertion. Morgan has hiked 31 of the 14er mountain
peaks, done a rim-to-rim trek in the Grand Canyon (including a 28-mile
day), backpacked in Yosemite and Bryce, and recently flew to Africa along
with 15 members of the Colorado Mountain Club to climb Kilimanjaro, the
continent's highest peak. She followed up the six-day climb with a safari
to the Serengeti Plain, Ngorohgoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
"Africa's in my blood," Morgan said. "If there's such a thing as reincarnation,
then I was an African in another life."
In the near future, there's a 10th Mountain Division hut ski trip, a half-marathon
in Moab, Utah, and in June travel to Montenegro with the Mountain Club
to climb in four national parks.
Angus is looking at spending some time at Aunt T's Pet Motel, but there
will be some sweet reunions in his future.
And Morgan will be back, cutting trees, washing dog dishes, licking envelopes,
counting pennies and planning her time to include a game of Scrabble and
a martini or two.