Woodburn: Kindness by and for Two Military Vets
By Woody Woodburn, VC Star Columnist
Having a column is a lot like owning a pickup truck — friends are constantly asking for help moving a couch or bulky dresser, or suggesting a topic they “just know” will be moving to readers.
My aging back does not miss my Datsun pickup. As for pitched column ideas, especially about people who have passed away that I did not know and thus have no personal story to share, my unwritten rule is to politely turn them down out of hand. Otherwise, I’d be writing a weekly obituary instead of general interest column.
Just this week I got two such requests. First up, my friend Tim told me all about longtime Ojai resident Bill Mors who died at age 97 on Jan. 16.
It seems that after serving in the Navy as a “Fighting Seabee” and helping build airfields that helped win World War II, Mors came home and built a very successful construction business and also built a wonderful life with a beloved wife and family.
This past December, Mors added to his legacy by donating half a million dollars to the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation. This heroic nonprofit organization in Camarillo focuses on rescuing military veterans from homelessness by providing shelter, food, counseling and other assistance.
Mors did more than write a six-figure check, however. Displaying the Seabee’s “Can Do” motto, he asked questions and sought solutions to further expand services for those who served their country.
In an obituary on the GCVF’s website Executive Director Bob Harris said: “Eighty years ago, Bill went into battle with a rifle and a bulldozer. This time he used a checkbook instead of a rifle, but his mind was that same unstoppable bulldozer. He knew it was his last battle and he knew his time was getting short. He pushed us to move faster, push delays and obstacles aside, and build a place for veterans to live and heal.”
My friend Jean, meanwhile, told me about a kindness aimed at a veteran from a different war. She wrote in part:
“Dear Woody — If you plan to do future feel-good stories in your column I’d like to share a happening I experienced on Jan. 15, my deceased brother’s birthday, at Surfer’s Point.
“As he headed out towards the water, a surfer stopped to listen to me as I asked if he’d be willing to assist in dropping into the ocean several seashells that were from my brother John Shepard’s memorial paddle-out held in Olympia, Wash., two years ago. John passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer due to being hit with Agent Orange four times while serving as a Green Beret in Vietnam.
“When I asked this 30-to-40ish-year-old fellow — his first name was Alex and he is Nordhoff High graduate — to help, I gave him a brief history of my brother. John used to surf at The Point, C Street, all along the California Coast. He also worked for the legendary Tom Morey building early Boogie Boards and surfboards for/with Tom Hale in the early-to-mid-1960s.”
With triple elation, Jean concluded: “Alex immediately agreed to the task and said he’d paddle way out and drop the shells — and also say a few words for John as well!!! Although I failed to get Alex’s last name I hope he knows how much his especially kind deed was appreciated!!!”
While I’d love to move a couch, so to speak, for Jean today and help Tim with a dresser next Saturday, I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. An unwritten rule is still a rule. I hope they both understand.
Source: VC Star column from January 29, 2021