Thursday, July 19, 2018
Human Interest

Epilogue: Healthy living advocate liked his pies, too

ZEPHYRHILLS — Donnie Morgan's lab coat never stayed white for long.

Between patients, he hastily threw his pens inside his coat pocket where they always exploded into a blue-hued Rorschach.

His co-workers nagged him about cleaning the stains out of his lab coat, but Morgan always laughed it off.

His priority, no matter how gruesome or ghastly the skin condition, was to help patients.

Morgan, 58, of Dade City, worked as a dermatology nurse practitioner in the Zephyrhills-based Florida Medical Clinic for almost 20 years, said his supervisor, Lori Gregory.

Morgan died July 6 while driving his Toyota Sequoia through Dade City's rural north side. The Sequoia left the roadway, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said, and traveled along a fence line, hitting posts before coming to a stop and igniting in flames.

It was about 2:40 in the afternoon. He died at the scene.

After Morgan's unexpected death, it's the memories of the little things, like the blue ink stains, that keep the medical clinic's staff going.

Morgan was the person in the office who refused to let a bug get killed. Whenever someone saw an insect crawling on the floor, Morgan would trap the creature, carry it outside and release it back into the wild.

He was a caring man who "didn't like anything to get hurt," Gregory said.

At home, he planted fruit trees and had a garden. He had horses, two donkeys, chickens and three dogs, Randy, Cody and Cheng.

He had recently suffered the death of his French bull dog, Casper. His co-workers helped him mourn the loss, Gregory said.

For a while, Morgan was a vegetarian. Lately, he had begun eating fish, then chicken, Gregory said. He loved cooking and talking about the environment at work.

Morgan was known as a health junkie, someone who was always working out and inspiring others to hit the gym and think about nutrition. But every year around the holidays, he made pies. Morgan's specialty was "hummingbird cake," a yummy pie with secret ingredients.

Morgan was sociable, a "free spirit" who enjoyed teaching the staff random facts he picked up while working his second job as an emergency medical technician, Gregory said. He was big on education, and helped the dermatology unit with community outreach.

Because a large part of the Zephyrhills population is elderly, the clinic sees a lot of skin cancer cases. Morgan was passionate about leading educational seminars on how to avoid skin cancer. He also planned and hosted mini skin exams and performed power point presentations for the public.

He also worked as a flight nurse EMT aboard Tampa General Hospital's emergency medical helicopters. He had an affinity for animals and volunteered as a member of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Mounted Posse, an equestrian service group.

For his co-workers, his most valuable gift was his commitment to care.

"When you work together for a long time, we're all family here," Gregory said. "We're taking it one thing at a time."

Morgan was born in Bartow and went to the University of Tampa. He was survived by his two brothers and his fiance, Roberto Valdes. A note in the obituary on the Hodges Funeral Home website reflects how Morgan's co-workers remember the nurse.

"His kindness and willingness to always lend an ear or shoulder to cry on and his capacity for empathy was unmatched as was his generosity," the obituary said. "He was a giver in every sense of the word."

Contact Hannah Alani at [email protected] or (813) 909-4617. Follow @hannahalani.

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