Early Days in Weston, MA
[Ed. note: Thanks to some late-breaking new information from cousin Michele (Morin) Shoemaker, certain corrections and additions have been added to the original text
Charles Morin was the youngest of three sons of George Albert Morin and Margaret Sullivan. George Morin was the son of a French-Canadian immigrant, a taciturn and inscrutable man who spoke little, but by example, taught them discipline, loyalty and probity. For a time, George served as a civil service attorney in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and drafted significant portions of the Tax Code revisions that were adopted in 1934. He subsequently moved to Boston and opened one of the city’s first law practices specializing in federal taxation. His success allowed him to acquire a substantial country estate in Weston, where he raised his three sons, George, Phillip and Charles. During Charles’s childhood, despite his favorable circumstances as a “rich kid,” his closest childhood friendship was not with others of wealth or social status, but with the nearby son of a struggling local handyman – with whom he remained in contact throughout his life, corresponding with him well into his seventies.
Charles was exceptionally precocious. He completed the Weston High School curriculum in three years at the age of 16, also as a skilled football player and concert violinist. He applied and was accepted to Harvard for the following fall, but his mother disapproved of such a young boy going to college. His father took him up to Exeter Academy where he interviewed with “Principal” Lewis Perry. During the interview, Principal Perry informed young Morin that if he came to Exeter he would have to take Latin.
“Why,” the young man asked.
“Because you will not be admitted to Harvard without it,” the elder Perry answered.
To that Charles responded, “I don’t want to take Latin and they accepted me this year without it, why wouldn’t they accept me next year?”
The Headmaster regarded the young man keenly, Morin returning the gaze with a whimsical look.
Principal Perry acknowledged that he didn’t need to take Latin, and the following fall Charles was off for his post-graduate year at Exeter.
There, he excelled at his studies, football and tennis for sports, and classical violin. He graduated from Exeter with Honors and entered Harvard the following fall of 1939.
Harvard brought out the mischief in Charlie Morin, although precisely how it was expressed remains a closed secret. He corresponded with several of his classmates well into their retirement years, but they all declined my invitation to reminisce (or wished they could but were past remembering). They all assured this author, however, that he was a “hell-raiser,” and they said it with marvel and affection. His sons saw plenty of evidence of that truth in the later years.
Morin’s relationships with his siblings are a matter of some mystery. He never spoke of his brothers to his sons. Decades later, a few frayed threads of the discord would emerge. First among them, as Phillip’s wife had told her daughter, mother Margaret assiduously encouraged her sons to compete against each other. This might not have been of too much consequence, but for the fact that the oldest brother, George, contracted Multiple Sclerosis. To provide for his care, their father established three trusts for the sons, with all of the income from each going to George’s medical care until he passed away. While Charles and Phillip certainly had no problem with this, it caused some friction between their wives after George and Margaret had passed. Since they could not fight over money, the object of their disputes turned to the personal property of the Estate, and thus ensued the age-old bickering of in-laws over who got what. Being one of the co-executors (with George), Charles devised an elegant solution: All of the personal property of the Estate was placed in storage, indefinitely. In fact, it was not until the 1990’s that the grandchildren were invited to rummage through the goods. After brother George passed away, his children called Charles, looking to continue the gravy train. Charles shut the door to filial duty for good.
Another source of friction between Phillip and his little brother (whom Phillip called “Peanut”): during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, when the three brothers and their father practiced law together, some latent hostility arose over the claim that Charles had been “poaching” Phillip’s clients. Whether Phillip and Charles ever spoke about it is unknown, but Phillip did tell his wife.
Fortuitously, it would turn out that in 1995, Charles’ youngest son Peter would move to Scituate, Massachusetts, where Phillip raised his family in an old country farmhouse. At the time, Phillip was beginning to fail mentally, and his eldest son, David (a pediatrician) and his wife were caring for him. David would become the doctor to Peter’s two children; David and his younger brother Christopher would join Peter and Charles Jr. for barbecues at Peter’s home, and the family rift would be mended. Neither David nor Christopher had any better insight into the rift between the two brothers.
If Charles Morin held any animosity toward his siblings, he never spoke about it to anyone but his wife. He was inscrutable in that way. Toward the final decade of Charles’ life, Phillip would enter the picture one last time.
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