Remembering George William Morell’s Generous Spirit with an Annual Thanksgiving Party

George William Morell, his wife, and four children pose for a photo during a trip to Hither Hills, New York, in August 1999. In a second image below, Morell’s name is seen on the 9/11 Memorial.
Above: George William Morell, his wife and his four children on a trip to Hither Hills, N.Y., in August 1999. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum.

George William Morell brought people together. The Westchester County, New York native and father of four was an outgoing storyteller who often struck up conversations with passersby.

His younger brother, Mark, recalls Morell’s keen ease at meeting people and making lasting connections. As he recounted in the New York Times’ “Portraits of Grief” series, “George made the shoeshine guy feel like a million bucks… He didn't collect cars or postage stamps. He collected friends.”

“He just found ways to please people, whether they were 12 years old, 10 years old, 5 years old, or 55 years old,” Morell’s brother Gaspar recalled in a StoryCorps interview conducted in partnership with the 9/11 Memorial Museum. One time Morell took Gaspar’s children and Morell’s own on an impromptu trip to Playland, a local amusement park, after a day at the beach, just to give the kids a day that they’d never forget.

It was in this spirit that Morell and his wife, Roberta, established their annual Thanksgiving Day party, inviting his extended family and friends who didn’t have plans to celebrate the holiday. “George was always so kind to anyone who didn’t have a place to go,” Morell’s sister, Catherine, remembers. She recalled the fun and generous atmosphere of the event in the oral history clip below.

One thing George did, later in life, he created the Thanksgiving Day party. And this was a family party that was held at his house on Thanksgiving Day. He had a large barn, and, so all of us were invited, and our children were invited, and then people who didn’t have anywhere to go, he invited. And one year it was so much fun because George and Robbie dressed up as pilgrims, and several years later, after 9/11, our cousin took a picture of them as pilgrims, and we have it on T-shirts.

The tradition still continues. Catherine estimates that this year they will have 50 people in the barn. The party is now intergenerational, and the buoyant, cheerful atmosphere remains. “Sometimes we have talent shows,” said Catherine. “It is my favorite holiday.”

On Sept. 11, George was on the North Tower’s 105th floor at Cantor Fitzgerald, where he worked as a bond broker and vice president. He was 47 years old.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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