If you read the site on a regular basis, have seen the logo, or follow on Facebook or Twitter, you have heard the name Earl Morphew or have seen the number 219 on multiple occasions. He was a role model to all that new him, and he had certain expectations of those he worked with. On January 28th, 2009, Cpt. Morphew was taken from us in an early morning accident when his vehicle was struck head-on by a drunk driver.
That morning, I remember as if it was yesterday. I was working on the ambulance that night when a good friend/co-worker woke me up with the news. My heart sunk…just as it did in many others that day. I had went to bed looking forward to the 28th, which was my 1 year anniversary at KFD. Little did any of us know the dreadful news that we would wake up and hear.
During his lifetime, Cpt. Morphew interacted with a large number of emergency personnel in the area. He was a Captain at my volunteer department, and worked as a Sgt. with the Bristol VA Fire Department and as a Flight Paramedic on Wellmont One.
Since his passing, a few of us have gathered for dinner on or around January 28th of each year. This year, we decided to send out an open invite to all of the area providers that knew him. While we didn’t really know what kind of response we would get, we knew that with the impact he had made…we were sure to get a response.
On January 28th, 2015, a large number of personnel from the Tri-Cities gathered at Stateline in Bristol, VA to remember our fallen colleague. While this wasn’t a solemn ceremony, it was more about celebrating the memories that each of us had with Earl. Photos cycled through on the TV that had been taken throughout his career, and Cpt. Morphew even had a place at the table with us.
Donations were accepted to take care of the cost of the facility, and I’m proud to say that we had enough money after the costs were covered to purchase a Memorial Brick from the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation to be placed at the National Fire Academy. In 2014, I was able to attend Memorial Weekend at the NFA, and I look forward to the next trip being able to hopefully see a brick in the ground in honor of Earl.
Janet Evans and Jeff Simpson (retired) of the Bristol VA Fire Department also had a surprise presentation to make to those in attendance. Without anyone else knowing, they had discovered one of Earl’s turnout coats. They had this for some time now, and were unsure of the “right” time to complete the project of placing it in a shadow box to be placed at BVFD: Station 1. After they saw the announcement for the event, the time had come. They attached a number of photos and a biography and it is now on display in the day room at Fire Station 1.
I’d like to thank everyone who attended the event, and even those who were not able to attend for continuing to remember Earl. He may have passed, but it is on a daily basis that he still passes through the minds of us all. This was a great way for those of us who knew him to enjoy each others company, and help his legacy live on.