Family and friends from around the world --- literally --- came together late Friday at Lake Morris east of Chariton to honor the memory of its namesake, Lyle Morris, of Derby, who died on Oct. 26, 1942, aboard the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, then under attack by Japanese warplanes off the shores of the Santa Cruz Islands during World War II.
The sign that will tell his story to anyone who visits the lake's northshore access after it has been installed arrived from Cameron, Wisc., early in the afternoon, greeted by Lyle's family. Grouped around the sign here (from left) are Jean Marie (Morris) Davidson and her son, Bob, of Des Moines; Cherie and Patrick Ranfranz of Cameron, Wisc., who handled design, production and delivery of the sign; and Lyle's nephew and niece, Don Evans of Yap Island and Charlotte (Morris) Bibler of Salem, Oregon.
Jean Davidson, Lyle's first-cousin, was the only one present Friday who remembered him in life. She is only a couple of years younger.
Don, who has lived on Yap Island, where he operates O'Keefe's Waterfront Inn, for about 40 years, spearheaded the project as a memorial to his uncle, brother of his late mother, Flora (Morris) Evans of Humeston. Other family members provided support.
Design and production support was provided by Patrick, founder of the Missing Air Crew Project, who has visited Yap with Cherie six times during the last 10 years as he works to research, locate and commemorate the crews of some 36 U.S. planes shot down over the island by Japanese forces during World War II. His uncle, T/Sgt. John R. McCullough, who went down with the 10-man crew of a B-24 Liberator over Yap on June 24, 1944, remains among the missing.
Don, Patrick and Cherie became friends --- and associates in the Yap memorials project --- during those visits. The Lake Morris sign is patterned after signs previously installed on Yap Island.
Charlotte represented her immediate family as well as Dale Morris, Lyle's only surviving sibling and also a World War II veteran --- now 89, alive and well and living in Oregon.
After Friday afternoon's brief program, family friend Greg Watsabaugh, of Humeston, took charge of the sign and will oversee the finishing touches --- staining and sealing its case, then installation. It will be placed alongside its temporary Friday location, near a boulder west of the Lake Morris dock and boat ramp.
Lyle, son of Leta and Otis Morris of Derby, was only 22 when he died --- a graduate of Derby High School and the American Institute of Business in Des Moines. He had been promoted in rank only two months before to recognize courage shown during an earlier Japanese assault on the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Lyle was among the first Lucas Countyans to die during World War II and, in May 1943, the Chariton City Council named a new lake known until then as "East Lake" in his honor. At the same time, they named the other "twin" lake --- sources of Chariton's water supply --- Lake Ellis in honor of U.S. Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Roy Ellis, of Williamson, who died on June 11, 1942, when his B-24 Bomber was shot down over the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.