TAPS: Commander (Ret) Frederick N. “Ric” Morgan Passes Away Suddenly at Age 70

Ric MorganRic Morgan passed away unexpectedly on Saturday 17 February 2024 while working in his law office at his rural Elbert County ranch. Ric was born on 30 July 1953 in Arlington, Virginia, to LaHonda Jo (Walton) and John Daniel Morgan. After attending Langley High School in Langley, Washington, Ric spent several years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs before finishing up his undergraduate studies at Colorado State University in 1978 with a degree in physics/geology.

Ric began his distinguished military career in 1979 when he was commissioned into the U.S. Navy. His Navy assignments took him all over the world and to the Pentagon as he was tasked with increasing responsibilities in Naval Intelligence. In 1985 Ric reported to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, receiving a Master of Science degree in Space Systems Operations and the designation of Navy Space Specialist. For the next several years, Ric was involved in high-profile naval missions in the Middle East and former Soviet Union.

In 1989, Ric reported to Headquarters, U.S. Space Command for duties in the intelligence directorate, and later deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, where he performed military intelligence functions aboard the USS Kennedy and USS Saratoga. While garrisoned in Turkey he led efforts to establish bases for U.S. and allied combat operations within Turkey during the Gulf War. During active hostilities, Ric deployed with forward units conducting search and rescue missions along the northern Iraqi frontier.

In 1993 Ric was assigned to a NATO military intelligence task force headquartered in England and spent the next several years supporting crisis operations throughout Europe and northern Africa. During conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia, Ric supported U.S. and NATO combat operations from various in-country locations. He eventually returned stateside and was assigned to U.S. Space Command where he served as Chief of the Intelligence Watch inside Cheyenne Mountain at NORAD.

Ric met his future wife Claudia (Bernet) of Basel, Switzerland while on assignment in Italy aboard the USS Belknap in 1988. After a long military career, Ric and Claudia purchased 80 acres in rural Elbert County on which to retire. They set up a sawmill and built a beautiful timber post and beam home from Ponderosa Pines felled from their land. Not long after his Naval retirement, a local church elder approached Ric about the local community’s need for a good lawyer, and he recruited Ric to attend law school. Three years later, at the age of 50, Ric graduated from the University of Denver Law School and passed the bar exam in 2003.

Over the past two decades, Ric has been a passionate advocate for justice and a legal system that is accessible to all citizens. One of the ways Ric combated “legal deserts” in rural Colorado was to establish the Lawyers at the Library program, an offshoot of the Access to Justice Virtual Pro Se Clinics that Ric helped grow and nurture throughout most of rural Colorado’s judicial districts. He also set up the online Colorado Legal Checkerboard giving users free and valuable legal advice and forms.

It is likely that Ric will be best known for his staunch and unwavering support and legal advocacy of military veterans. He was the Elbert County Veteran Service Officer for years and has helped countless veterans get the assistance and benefits they deserved. He also held leadership and command positions in the VFW and American Legion for decades.

Ric’s personal interests were many, and included genealogy, geology, history, and ranching. Ric and Claudia established the only breeding herd of Swiss Valais Blackneck goats in North America and were great advocates of sustainable ranching, farming, conservation, and forestry management. Ric’s knowledge of Elbert County history, from settlement times to today’s legacy ranches, was incredibly extensive. His historical knowledge of, and contributions to, the veterans interred in the Elbert Cemetery was legendary.

Ric is survived by his wife of 34 years Claudia; as well as his two sons Eric (and his wife Jennifer) of Dover, Delaware, and Ryan of Fort Collins, Colorado. His extended family includes three granddaughters, seven brothers and sisters and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Ric’s memorial service will be held at 10am Saturday, 9 March at the Gates Mercantile Building in Elbert. Interment will follow immediately at 11am at the Elbert Cemetery where carpooling is highly encouraged. A potluck luncheon in honor of Ric will commence at 12 noon at the Gates Mercantile Building. In lieu of flowers the family would ask that donations be made to the American Legion, VFW or charity of your choice.

His military honors and decorations include the Distinguished Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.