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Friends remember life of killed UA student

JESSE LEWIS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Agricultural education sophomores Richard Sivils and Anna Groseta were friends of Joshua Morgan, the UA student killed in a tragic work accident last week. They sit here with a Future Farmers of America jacket to symbolize Morgan's influential position as a state officer in that organization.
By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 22, 2004
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Friends celebrated the life of a UA student who was killed last week in an accident at work, remembering his leadership, compassion and desire to help others.

More than 500 people attended Joshua Morgan's funeral in Peoria over the weekend, an event intended to celebrate Morgan's life rather than mourn his death, said Allyson Sweeney, an agricultural education sophomore who knew Morgan for six years.

Morgan was instantly killed after getting trapped in a birdseed grinder he was cleaning at Arizona Feeds Country Store, 4743 North Highway Drive.

Anna Groseta, an agricultural education sophomore who also knew Morgan for six years, said the high attendance at Morgan's funeral was expected, as Morgan had touched many lives in only two decades.

"In 20 years, he did what people could not complete in 20 lifetimes," Groseta said.

Guests at the funeral, who came from across Arizona, brought hundreds of yellow roses, which symbolize friendship, to show Morgan's parents the impact their son had on the community.

Known to friends as a remarkable leader, skilled public speaker and compassionate person, Morgan, an animal sciences and agricultural education sophomore, was also popular for his genuine personality and warm hugs.

Jim Knight, head of the department of agriculture, said Morgan served as a state officer for the Future Farmers of America, a group dedicated to fostering leadership and service in agriculture.

To be elected into the position, Morgan had to pass a rigorous application process and demonstrate superior leadership qualities, Knight said.

As part of FFA, Morgan volunteered with high school students and was committed to improving younger students' lives through leadership workshops, said Alicia Wilden, an agricultural education sophomore who befriended Morgan in high school.

Morgan was also praised by guidance counselors from Peoria High School, where his funeral was held.

"This man was truly a positive role model with our students," said Annie Coury, a guidance counselor at PHS.

Groseta said Morgan was always willing to help others, and during FFA meetings he was the first one to volunteer for tasks ranging from bringing cardboard boxes for events to valet parking cars at a fundraiser.

Morgan's passion for animals, agriculture and the outdoors led him to jobs at the Wildlife World Zoo, a veterinary clinic and landscaping for Peoria Sports Complex.

"I don't really remember Josh watching TV - Josh was always outside doing something," Sweeney said. "He was someone that always took pride in everything he did."

In addition to working with animals and agriculture, Morgan enjoyed fishing, camping, hunting, fixing derby cars, and he played football his freshman year of high school until he suffered a knee injury.

Richard Sivils, an agricultural education sophomore and long-time friend of Morgan, said he was impressed by the numerous awards Morgan had won, such as an agricultural mechanic state competition, which measured skills in wielding, wiring, plumbing and herding.

Bobby Gonzalo, Morgan's former guidance counselor at Peoria High School, called Morgan a gentleman and a great human being.

"He excelled in the classroom, and whenever he was asked to do anything, he delivered a quality job," Gonzalo said.

An aspiring veterinarian with an interest in agricultural education, Morgan, a UA sophomore, planned to later pursue a graduate degree at Colorado State University, Sweeney said.

Groseta said Morgan also had a fun-loving side, as he liked to play pranks and was nicknamed "One-Way Morgan" for his failure to make U-turns.

During an FFA trip to Monument Valley High School for a presentation, Morgan inadvertently drove straight for an hour before finding MVHS, said Wilden, who accompanied him on the trip.

However, an hour into Morgan's classroom presentation, one audience member pointed out they were at MVHS in Utah, not MVHS in Arizona.

"We were like, 'What? Where's the border?'" said Wilden.

Although saddened by the devastating loss, Groseta said she understands accidents happen and does not blame anyone for Morgan's death.

Ken Diskey, president and CEO of Eagle Milling Company, said Morgan was caught in a piece of machinery and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.

Diskey declined to comment on company safety procedures.

Wilden, who is familiar with the machines, said Morgan was following all standard procedures while cleaning the grinder. However, the company does not supply workers with a safety harness, Sweeney said.

According to police reports, when Morgan fell into the grinder, he was killed instantly.

"I think the big problem is the fact that there wasn't a safety harness," Sweeney said. "They (Morgan's family) just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody in the future."

Knight said he will always remember Morgan as someone who was pleasant to be around, with an eternal smile on his face.

Groseta said at the funeral, Morgan's nieces and nephews said they knew their "favorite uncle" could take care of the horses in heaven.

"The world lost someone that was definitely going somewhere in life," Sweeney said. "Josh was someone that was liked by everyone."

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