VC Star Veterans Column: Ventura County Veterans Lose Friend, But Legacy Still Burns

By Alexander G. Deraney, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) and GCVF “Mobile Veteran Outreach” Team Member

Bill Mors, Veterans Village
Bill Mors, who lived in Ojai, served in active duty with the U.S. Navy from 1941-45 and in the Reserves from 1945-84. He fought in World War II and reached the rank of Lieutenant. Mors died on January 16, 2021.

President Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, implored the American people to increase their devotion to the cause for which our fallen servicemen gave the last full measure of devotion. Whether a member of our armed forces served in combat or not, after taking the oath, the possibility of giving one’s last full measure is freely accepted.

One Ventura County veteran, William “Bill” Mors, devoted his life to looking after our most vulnerable veterans. Our community has been profoundly impacted by his passing on Jan. 16, but he is far from giving his last full measure.

Thanks to Mors, the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation has raised the first $525,000 of its $10 million goal. Mors’ extremely generous donation will greatly advance the realization of the foundation’s vision of Veterans’ Village.

The village will offer homeless veterans several short- and mid-term housing options, including small log cabins, trailers and spots to pitch tents for up to 100 veterans at a time, including those with family.

The foundation plans to accept any veteran, regardless of their ability to pay. They are now in negotiations for a large property in Ventura County and have launched the first campaign for donations.

Mors, one of the treasured remaining members of the “Greatest Generation,” was 97 at the time of his passing. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Mors was 17 and enlisted in the Navy. He was selected to attend officer training school and was assigned to the 31st Special Naval Construction Battalion, also known as the Seabees, in 1943.

Mors was deployed to Saipan until the end of the war in 1945. After the war, he remained in the Navy Reserves until 1984. While reflecting on Memorial Day, Mors stated, “I was proud to serve my country in World War II and beyond. I recognize that some of the wars after that were/are not as well supported…

“Regardless, I believe the men and women that defend this country deserve respect for putting their lives and bodies in peril to defend our freedoms.”

Bob Harris, the foundation’s executive director, said he believed Mors was the answer to the nonprofit’s prayers to initiate the sorely needed Veterans’ Village project.

Veterans Village, Vin Scully Veterans

The Veterans’ Village approach accepts that homeless veterans face an incredibly diverse array of complex service-related problems, which requires equal adaptability in creating solutions to care for them. Mors, then an Ojai resident, had been searching for a way to help his fellow veterans.

One morning in December 2019, Mors marched into Harris’ office looking for the “head honcho.” Mors and Harris talked for hours, with Harris commenting, “I’ve never been grilled so thoroughly by anybody in my life.”

Mors had spoken with the heads of a few other veteran organizations, but he said many of the traditional programs didn’t offer homeless veterans the care they needed to get them off the streets permanently. Harris, who mourns the loss of his friend, said Mors was the epitome of the Seabees’ famous “can do” motto.

Mors lived and worked at home during his final days, surrounded by those who cared for him and was filled with hope that his passion to end veteran suffering was about to become reality. Despite the ever present threat of COVID-19, he and his small military nonprofit in Camarillo went on the attack.

At a time when 90% of all nonprofits were seriously degraded or closing, Mors’ determination and partnership with the foundation resulted in greater support for vulnerable veterans during the pandemic.

On July 20, he announced that he was not willing to wait until he passed to launch the Veterans’ Village project. He pledged his donation along with 60% of his multimillion-dollar estate.

While Mors was profoundly grateful and excited by the foundation’s willingness to rise to his challenge, the foundation board, staff and volunteers were compelled to greatly step up their efforts in order to keep up with Mors. But a righteously impatient Mors was known to ask Harris what was taking so long. 

“Bob, I’m so happy to see you staying the course… you’ve honored your word, and I’m positive that you are indeed going to engage and defeat the causes of veteran homeless in our country,” Harris said of their last conversation. “… I look forward to being there with you when we break ground. Now, get to work.”

Source: VC Star article from February 1, 2021