Woman, 89, who fled unspeakable European hostilities at peace in her personal Eden
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"Morgan Pond in Eden Valley" by Dorothea Morgan

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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EDEN VALLEY –– As a conscripted worker in Nazi labor camps and later a translator in the drab green tents of American officers, Dorothea Amman Morgan learned the importance a simple color can have on a person’s life.

“That’s what was so important about the Garden of Eden,” Morgan said. “Everywhere around them was the blossoms and the colors of life.

“And that was the terrible thing about the war. Everything was olive green, everything was so bleak and drab,” she said.

For the past 40 years, Morgan, now 89, has lived in her own Eden in the mountains west of Port Angeles, an area known as Eden Valley.

For much of that time, she has found inspiration in the kaleidoscope of flowers, birds and ever-changing trees in her Eden Valley backyard.

“It’s the most beautiful place in the world,” she said in a broken English accented with hints of Spanish and German.

“In the winter and spring when it gets wet, we have a lovely pond,” she said.

Morgan has captured that pond and the many other lush scenes from Eden Valley in a series of paintings she will show this weekend at Karon’s Frame Center, 625 E. Front St., Port Angeles.

A reception is tonight from 6 to 8.

Her father Alexander Amman, a Spanish intellectual, was captured by Nazi soldiers after criticizing them on the streets of Nurnberg, Germany, in 1941.

After that, Morgan was taken at the age of 17 by the Nazis and forced to work in sugar beet fields, and for German industrial corporations Siemens and Krups.

She was conscripted when American forces began to squeeze into Germany from the west, and moved with her fellow prisoners east until they met Russian soldiers who were squeezing Adolf Hitler’s forces from the east.

“That’s where everything fell apart, and we never saw the Germans again,” Morgan remembered.

When the Germans abandoned their camp in Grüdonnerstag on Good Friday, Morgan was one of the many left to fend for themselves.

“I walked for nine days by myself from the east to the west,” she said. “And it was martial law, so I had to be sure not to be seen or I would get caught.”

Her clothes torn from walking through streams and forests and ducking into ditches to avoid being spotted breaking curfew, Morgan, then 19, stopped at the house of an old German man who had raised seven daughters.

She tried on their clothes, but the broad German daughters’ dresses were too large for the slight Morgan.

But she found help from an old woman in the town.

“She had climbed up on the tower of the little German village and took down the flag because it was made of good fabric,” Morgan recalled.

The woman took the Nazi flag apart and made Morgan a dress.

“A red dress with a white collar and black piping. It was so hideous and uncomfortable,” she said.

“And that’s how the Americans hired me in Wiesbaden.”

A friend of Morgan’s mother’s family who ran a salon recognized her and got her a job translating for an American Major named Hoffman in General Omar Bradley’s unit.

She wanted then to move south to find any family that may have survived World War II, and Major Hoffman allowed her — after hours of convincing — to ride exposed on an oil car.

“I did find my mother outside of Nuremberg, and my grandmother,” she said.

There, she got another job working in General George Patton’s unit, where she met a G.I. from Tennessee named Brigham Morgan, fell in love and got married.

They flew to New York City, where she arrived wearing nothing but her slip and an overcoat, having vomited on the Trans-Atlantic propeller flight.

Dorothea and Brigham then moved around the country with the Army, living in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alaska and eventually Port Angeles.

They raised five sons and one daughter.

“I had to keep trying, and it took me six tries,” she said. “But I have five living, strong boys and they’re wonderful.”

As her children grew up, Morgan turned her focus to her art.

In 1980, she went to Mexico, where she studied for two intensive years to earn a master’s degree in fine art from the University of Guanajuato.

After that, she spent time working in Nicaragua to ease the Sandinista rebellion and taught art in villages ravaged by a civil war.

“The art made such a difference in their lives,” she said. “Every man, every woman, every child would find time to come down and draw and paint because it took them away from the horror they were seeing all around.”

Her work, much of it inspired by her faith, hangs in chapels and monasteries around the country.

She taught around the world, guiding the eye of budding artists in the dozens of cities in which she has lived with simple baseline philosophies.

“The basis of any art has to be a good drawing,” she said.

And boy, can she draw.

Morgan has been juried into the Northwest Watercolor Society, the Women Painters of Washington and the Northwest Print Council.

She currently works with the children of Dry Creek Elementary and takes special pride in the mural that hangs in the school’s lobby.

“I despise hearing people say they have no talent,” she said. “If you can draw a line, that’s all you need.

“That and some wonderful color.”


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 07. 2014 7:57PM
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