Cougfan.com, my dad has endured many difficult health issues."> Cougfan.com, my dad has endured many difficult health issues.">

Farewell to the King: WSU legend Chuck Morrell

IT IS WITH great sadness and regret that I announce the death of my father Charles Jon "Chuck" Morrell. He suffered a massive stroke while at the hospital for a procedure to allow him to begin dialysis. He died Thursday, February 10, 2005 after a five and a half week fight. As many of you know from the "Braveheart" article on <I>Cougfan.com</I>, my dad has endured many difficult health issues.

More than his own health issues, Chuck Morrell experienced success as an athlete and as an actor, but also much pain and suffering throughout much of his life. This is part my recollection…

Chuck and Gary Morrell were twins born in Cleveland, Ohio and soon after called upstate New York home. In the late 1970s, dad took me with him to visit his childhood home. He climbed up the same steps where he had climbed as a small boy to jump into the favorite "swimming hole". He was amazed at how much it was the same. I was too young to fully appreciate this trip. I cherish it now.

When Chuck and Gary were about eight years of age they were sent out to Long Beach, Calif. by train. I do remember that Gary, I believe, had to go first because there wasn't enough money to send both boys. This must have been very difficult for them, as they'd never been separated before.

As the twins grew up in Long Beach, they played sports, went to school, and had some fisticuffs with the local tough boys. They attended Long Beach Poly high school for one year and then moved to Downey, Calif. At Downy they became the legendary "Touchdown Twins." Everyone knew them, or knew of them. All of my life I would be told by teachers at my high school, parents of my classmates, people who lived in Downey in the mid 50s, that they had vivid memories of my father.

The story goes that after one great year at Long Beach City College, my dad and uncle were all set for football scholarships to UCLA. My dad needed three units of foreign language and decided to take German. He failed the class and his fate was changed. A high school teammate of his, Al White, an LSU tiger, was talking with his friend, Cougar quarterback Bunny Aldrich, who asked if he knew any available running backs that could come in and play right away at Washington State. Al told Bunny, this is your lucky day. I guess German was not the spoken language of choice in Pullman.

Chuck and Gary were off to Pullman. Legend has it, that they came with no money, but were driving a nice new car. Perhaps UCLA not only lost a couple of football players, they were also looking for a new car with Washington state plates? The rest is football, broadcasting, and theatre history.

My dad had a successful career at Washington State on both sides of the ball, earning All-West Coast honors after his senior season in 1958. He still holds the Cougar record for the longest run from scrimmage. When the Washington Redskins asked him to commit to defense only, my dad, having the acting seed planted at Pullman, decided to end the football dream. He didn't end it completely, however, later starring for the Orange County Rhinos, a semi-pro team, but I believe this was more for fun and Hollywood was the main objective.

My parents were married in the early 60s. By late 1966 my sister was born and I was just two years old. I believe this is when Charles and our mom Darla parted ways. Holly and I lived with our mom throughout our childhood. I was always aware of my father and saw him sporadically, and at times quite often. He was always hanging out with stars or those on the cusp of stardom. He seemed to fit in quite well.

Chuck always had a job in the car business. He made a lot of friends and some good money, but I always thought he felt it was temporary until he got his big break in Hollywood. The car business stayed with him almost to the very end.

When I was a young boy, I recall he would have scratches on his hands and knuckles and I would ask him what happened. He would grunt out "got in a fight". I remember my mom telling me how tough he was. She said he was not afraid to pull the car over and get out into the street to bust up two guys who just almost ran them off the road. Everyone who knew my dad in the early years has told me, at one time or another, what a tough son of a bitch he was.

When I was about eleven years of age tragedy struck our family. Gary's second born, Kyle had a massive cardiac arrest. He lay in a coma for weeks and then died at the age of 12. Kyle was more than my cousin. He was my favorite person to be around in the world. I did not understand that we would never see him again. This was so terribly tragic.

Nine months later, lightning struck for the second time with the death of Gary's first-born son, Mitchell. These two boys were healthy, happy and athletic. It seemed to be impossible. These events devastated Gary, and Chuck, being his identical twin, seemed to feel exactly what Gary felt. As horrifying as this was, it wasn't the end.

A few years later Desiree, Gary's eldest daughter, had the same cardiac arrest walking home from high school. A miracle occurred when someone nearby knew CPR. Desiree made it through, but has suffered the effects for 35 years. She has a 20-year-old son, Tyler, who has had a tough bout with HCM as well.

Gary Morrell died of HCM in 1991. This was the most difficult day in my dad's life. I was staying with him at the time, and following Gary's death we became roommates in the Costa Mesa area of Orange County. I felt like I couldn't help him. He seemed at times like he could not go on. After months, he did fight through the pain and managed to start looking out for himself. He looked into his own heart condition and knew he would need a transplant soon to survive.

He received his transplant in 1995 and it gave him almost 10 more years of life. The past year or two has been a struggle for my Dad. He often times was not feeling well while taking at least 15 prescription drugs a day.

When I think of memories of Chuck Morrell, I think of the many sporting events we attended together, watching the filming of movies or TV shows. I think of fabulous vacations in Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, Big Bear, etc. We usually had a couple of friends with us. My dad attended just about every game I ever played in. He had dreams of me being an NFL quarterback, major league baseball player, or actor/movie star and he tried to help me get there.

He was proud of what he accomplished but dreamt of doing so much more. He could be gruff and abrasive, anti-social and angry, compassionate, giving, kind and generous. I think he often felt that life didn't deal him the best hand. Whenever I asked him for help with anything, he would help me without hesitation. I know he loved and cared for me, as well as my sister, my cousins, my aunt Anita, his extended family members and many friends. I always felt Chuck had a very difficult time showing his love and affection… at least with me. I also know that he had no frame of reference for fatherhood. He had no father.

I will always have fond memories watching him with my little children in recent times. He kissed them, hugged them, laughed and played with them. This all seemed very natural to him.

If I could speak to him right now I would say three things… I loved you, I know you loved me, and without accomplishing one more thing in your life, you did plenty for which you should be proud.

For more information on HCM, please visit A Heart for Sports and to learn more about the great Chuck Morrell, read Braveheart: The Chuck Morrell Story.


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