Maurice Coles was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Ask anyone who knew Morrie and they’ll tell you the same thing. He was one of those rare, truly lovely people who make Howell so special; the town is all the better for his having lived here nearly his entire life. He was even given its highest honor when he was named the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1992.
And now the town is mourning the loss of one of its very best friends: Morrie died in a car accident on Friday at the age of 99.
I am not sure exactly when or where I met Morrie; of the nearly three decades that I’ve been in Howell, I’ve known him. He lived in my neighborhood, and I’d often see him driving his car. If he was driving by when I was out front or on the porch, and if he had the time, he’d stop, roll down his window and we’d chat.
Morrie was like a walking encyclopedia of Howell, and from him I learned the history of my sweet little 1925 bungalow, of which my husband and I are the fourth owners. Morrie told me that my house was built by someone who lived in it not very long, just a year or two; after that, the Howell High School athletic director lived in it; and then another family.
“And now the newspaper editor,” he said about me.
Morrie especially loved working on the Howell Beautification Committee — “Making the town look good,” he’d say — and I often saw him out for breakfast with his wife, Bernice.
What you first noticed about Morrie was his smile. It was this great, big, enthusiastic smile, full of cheer and humor and love, and Morrie smiled — a lot. He was a sharp guy who enjoyed good conversation, and he took a genuine interest in people. I believe his attitude and his cheerfulness contributed to his longevity.
In 2009, when I was laid off from my job as managing editor of The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, I was considering what the heck I was going to do with my life. I was a middle-aged middle manager in the newspaper business when the industry was tanking and there were no jobs for people like me.
A couple weeks into my joblessness — when I was feeling low and lost — I received a note in the mail from Morrie; it meant so much to me that I’ve still got it safely tucked away. In this beautiful writing, Morrie gave me some wonderful advice: He told me that I should think of the time as the beginning of my next great adventure, that I should remember all the good work that I did, and look forward to all the good work I’d do in the future.
It was a lovely gesture that still means a lot to me, and it shows what a kind, caring gentleman Morrie was.
I am lucky to be among the many in Howell who count their lives richer for having known this special man.
Godspeed, Morrie Coles.
The Howell Archives posted a great piece about Morrie on Facebook. Read it here.
I couldn’t find a photo of Morrie online, so I snagged this one from the post by the Howell Archives.
Here is the obituary for Morrie:
Maurice H. Coles, age 99, lifelong resident of Livingston County, passed away Friday, October 6, 2017. He was born June 3, 1918 in Iosco Township, Livingston County. MI, the son of Henry and Eva (Fewless) Coles. Beloved husband of Bernice G. (Trusler) Coles whom he married 77 years ago on September 21, 1940. Loving father of Carol Oesterle of Grand Rapids, Maurice (Sue) Coles of Mason and Peggy (Terry) Rummler of Florida. Proud grandfather of seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Suzanne. Maurice was a 1936 Howell High School graduate and a U.S. Navy veteran, serving 1944-1946 during WW II. He retired after 34 years as a mail carrier for the Howell Post Office in 1973 and became a Howell School bus driver. He was a member of Howell Chapter No. 38, F. & A.M., member of the Howell Beautification Committee until 2016, the Howell City Council from 1964-1977, Civil War Round Table, an Election volunteer and a Boy Scout Leader. Maurice was voted Howell Citizen of the Year for 1992 and was Grand Marshall of the Howell Melon Parade in 2002. He enjoyed woodworking and was especially known for creating and donating children’s stools. He was a very active member of the First United Methodist Church including the choir, located at 1230 Bower Street in Howell where memorial services will be held Saturday, October 21 at 11:00 a.m. with visitation from 10 – 11 a.m. at the church. Visitation will also be Friday from 6-8 p.m. with a Masonic service at 6:30 P.M. at MacDonald’s Funeral Home, Howell (517-546-2800). Memorial contributions are suggested to the First United Methodist Church.