Dr. Charles D. Morehead
He led an enormously rich life, but today, family and friends mourn the death of Charles D. “Doc” Morehead, who died Sunday, September 15, 2013, at Lourdes hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. Looking at the journey of his life, one can see it was defined by his professional work as an accomplished surgeon, his love of and pride in his family, a whole-hearted embrace of the outdoors, and an avid and endless intellectual curiosity and interest in what life offered. Nobody who knows him can doubt that he is embarking on yet another great adventure, as he leaves this earth and joins family and friends who have gone before him.
Doc, as those who knew him best referred to him, was born September 26, 1938, to parents Daniel Van Morehead and Iris Ann Morehead of Norris City, Illinois. He had one brother, Joel Alan Morehead, who survives him. In 1961, he married his hometown sweetheart, Anita Sue Austin, and after 52 years of marriage, she was the rock of his life, and survives him today.
To simply say that two adult children survive him is to minimize the pride and pleasure Doc took in his kids, son Charles Daniel Morehead and daughter Melissa Ann Morehead. At his knee, his son, Dan, learned to love the outdoors and nature, and ultimately that love translated into his professional career as a bass fisherman. Melissa shared Doc’s professional drive, obtaining an MBA and pursuing a career in finance. And from each of his children, he was given what he considered a tremendous gift: His grandchildren, Sarah Austin Morehead, age 13, Daniel Van Morehead II, age 8, daughter and son of Dan and his wife Jenny, and Gabriella Green, age 2 1/2, daughter of Melissa, who lives in San Francisco.
Doc attained his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. His route to becoming a doctor took him to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he graduated from medical school in 1964, followed by an internship at St. Louis County Hospital in Clayton, Missouri.
But his roots were in Southern Illinois, and he returned there to begin a medical practice in Eldorado, Illinois, hoping to give back to the community and sink roots into the region of the country where his life began. But war intervened: After a mere six months of practice in Eldorado, he was drafted by the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam, where he served as a Captain in the medical corps, and a combat doctor in the field. His young wife, Sue, waited at home for him, and their son, Dan, was born while he was still serving in the military. His unit, the Big Red 1 Infantry Division, still exists today. Doc was awarded the combat medical badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. Of that year in Vietnam, where he flew in helicopters over combat zones to attend to wounded soldiers, he often said, “I didn’t know whether to wear my flak jacket or sit on it.”
After an honorable discharge from the Army, he went to the University of Louisville Medical School for a four-year residency in orthopedic surgery, where his youngest daughter, Melissa, was born. After completion of his training, with his young family at his side, he followed his heart toward Southern Illinois, a part of the country that would always be the foundation of his life, and to which he would always be drawn. They settled in Paducah, Kentucky, within shouting distance of both Southern Illinois and his beloved Kentucky Lake, joining the Paducah Orthopaedic Clinic, where he practiced until his retirement in 1995, and served his patients at Lourdes hospital.
Doc’s professional accomplishments were vast. He was a board certified member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and a member of the Arthroscopy Association of North America, the American Medical Association and the Kentucky Medical Association. And when it came to play time, Doc was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, archery, and, particularly, fishing, and proudly carrying the mantle of being a Charter Member of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and a member of FLW Outdoors.
Retired doctor and full time grandpa, these pleasurable pursuits made up his later years. He proudly attended fishing tournaments with his son, Dan, who’s made a career of fishing and is an FLW touring professional bass fisherman, and he watched in pleasure and pride as he saw the family prowess at hunting, fishing and archery take root in his grandchildren, Sarah and Van. As an accomplished archer and hunter, Sarah has worked to perfect her art on the family farm in Southern Illinois, and Doc watched in pride as Sarah and her younger brother, Van, become the third generation to carry on a rich tradition of family heritage, on the land where Doc had his most cherished moments.
A man is the sum total of his pursuits, of his life, past and present, but Doc was a man not easily defined. To call him a husband, father, grandfather or doctor, those roles in which he reveled and which largely defined his life, only skims the surface of this multi-faceted man. A strong streak of culture and intellectualism lived in him; his library was vast and eclectic, as were his musical play lists, consisting of extreme classical to country to gospel to R&B. In later years, he learned to cook the fish and wild game he brought in, watching cooking shows and experimenting with his own recipes. As Doc liked to say, “Every day is a holiday.” During the course of his life, he never passed up an opportunity to learn something, experience something, or soak up a new experience.
Doc’s personality that was larger than life - his optimism, his curiosity, his joy in nature, his pride watching his family grow, the zeal with which he grabbed life, and life’s adventures, with both hands, growing older with the love of his life, his wife Sue, gave his life shape and meaning, and those rare qualities touched the lives of all he came in contact with. On the day he died, the world lost a brilliant, stimulating, remarkable man, or, as one of his son Dan’s friends noted, “He was the ‘big fish’ that got away.”
What Doc would say – always said – was, “It don’t get no better than this.” For those left behind, grieving goes on. But he left a legacy that will endure, and memories that will remain rich and sharp and clear for those close to him to cling to.
Since childhood, Doc was a member of the Methodist Church and attended Concord United Methodist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, so continuing in his non-traditional way of life, there will be a memorial service celebrating life, not death, Sunday, September 22, 2013, from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at Concord United Methodist Church fellowship hall – a time for friends and family to enjoy each other’s company in an informal, relaxed setting (no ties allowed), to roll out “Doc” stories and celebrate a remarkable life lived by a unique, special man.
Milner & Orr Funeral Home of Paducah is in charge of arrangements.
And in lieu of flowers, the family requests that a contribution be made in his name to the charity of your choice (although Doc had a particular interest in children’s charities and programs supporting our nation’s wounded warriors). You may also leave a message of condolence and light a candle of remembrance at www.milnerandorr.com — or go out and “catch and release” a bass in his honor.