WILTON — A successful leader of G.H. Bass Shoe Co. is being remembered for his dedication to his family, the business, his horses and the way he treated others.

Charles Morgan, 85, of Rochester, Minn., died Tuesday.  A service will be held there Saturday, with burial in Wilton in the spring.

Born in Old Town, Morgan was working at Forster Manufacturing in Wilton when company President Charles Murray hired him to join Bass.

After 100 years of growth as a world-renowned maker of Bass Weejuns, the local shoe company was struggling in the mid 1970s, Murray said.

“Bass was having some problems,“ he said. “It was looking to be sold.”

Morgan succeeded Murray as president in 1975.

In a speech given at Husson College in 1977, Morgan described a turnaround based on a “spirit of cooperation and teamwork” by all employees, and a return to the business principles set by founder George H. Bass. Those included listening to customers and giving them what they want, keeping quality high, taking orders first and then making the shoes, Morgan said.

On the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, the company paid nearly $200 million in debt and interest and again became a leader in the shoe industry. The company had laid off nearly half of its 1,100 employees and production was down to 2,500 shoes per day. Just months after paying off the debt, the employees were hired back, 500 more added and production neared 15,000 shoes per a day, Morgan said.

“We were in a hole when he took over, but he dug us out,” said Glendon Swett of Wilton, who was hired by Morgan as a director of product development. “He was a nice man, a tough man, but he got the job done.”

Swett appreciated Morgan’s approach. Unlike some new presidents who just come in and make decisions, Morgan also thought about the people.

“Morgan admitted that he didn’t know anything about making shoes, but he was going to surround himself with people who do, and he did just that,” Swett said.

“Although Morgan was in a prestigious job, he was a common person,” Norman Gould of Wilton said. “You could talk with him. He impressed me in that way.”

“Morgan was a man all about business, very concerned about running of the Bass plant,” Pat Pochepan, a neighbor and friend, said. “but yet his thoughts were for the people who worked for the company.”

He was a kind, considerate and conscientious man, Pochepan said.

“It was the way he treated people. Very fair, looking out for the best for them,” she said.

He was also respectful, intelligent and hard-working, she added.

Morgan and his wife, Jerie, built a home on Orchard Drive in Wilton. Their three children were friends with Pochepan’s children.

“He was family oriented and loved his children,” she said. “He also loved his horses.”

Morgan added a barn and show arena to his Wilton home, where he kept his quarter horses, she said. It was a beautiful place, partly because he was a particular person, a perfectionist, she said.

He was also well known in the horse industry, she said. 

From his ranch in Texas, Morgan raised a world champion quarter horse named Quincy Feature.

“Morgan was dedicated to his horses and everything he did,” Mary Taylor of Cumberland Foreside, formerly of Wilton, said. “He had a lot of dedication, whether at Bass or taking care of his horses. His stables were immaculate.”

He also had a strong interest in people. Morgan always wanted the Taylors to have a good time and enjoy the time they spent together, she said.

“He was very generous, always willing to share what he had,” she added.

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