On May 2, 2019, elected officials and community members came together at the dedication ceremony to honor longtime Madera County businessman and community leader, Martin Morgan, for being a dreamer, music lover, and a true visionary. And he was a good neighbor.
A Holocaust survivor, Martin Morgan survived one of the worst human tragedies in world history. “Martin’s story is a story of perseverance and resilience,” said Karen McCaffrey, vice president of Tesoro Viejo Development, at the dedication ceremony of the Martin Morgan Amphitheater. “He taught us the importance of staying positive and to never stop dreaming – as he loved music it is fitting that this amphitheater is named in his honor where community concerts will be held for years to come.”
On what would have been his 92nd birthday, and coincidentally the internationally recognized Holocaust and Heroes Remembrance Day, community members commemorated the naming of the Martin Morgan Amphitheater in Tesoro Viejo, Madera County’s newest award-winning, master-planned community.
Martin Morgan died in 2015 at the age of 88. He was born in Kanscky, Poland and was taken into an Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 13. After being liberated, he spent time traveling Europe before he embarked on his journey to America in 1952. Martin was known as an accomplished businessman who owned a fabric store, cattle ranch, and harvested oranges and olives.
You could say this success story began when he met his wife, Betty, soon after arriving in California. It was 1953 at a street fair in Fresno. He was selling socks, and Betty was selling snow cones for 10 cents. He approached Betty and asked for a snow cone, but also asked for a date.
As they drove by an orange grove on that very first date, he told his future wife: “One day, I’m going to buy me one of those.”
And he did; but first, he married Betty.
Martin and Betty bought 30 acres of land in Madera County to start an orange grove and soon bought another 150 acres for a cattle ranch – adjacent to the land that is now a part of Tesoro Viejo.
“Mr. Morgan is a special part of Madera County’s history, as he had vision decades ago for what Madera County could become,” said Madera County Board of Supervisor Brett Frazier at the dedication ceremony.
Betty shares the story of the day they bought their first land in Madera County and the vision Martin had for it.
“It was just fresh, beautiful land,” she says.
Betty recounts them eating a sandwich under a eucalyptus tree on a beautiful sunny day, looking up at the snow-capped mountains and contemplating the purchase of the land in Madera County. Their decision to purchase the land resulted in many successful years of cattle ranching and farming. And let’s not forget the fabric store, where Martin would travel back and forth to Los Angeles to get the fabric.
No one knew hard work like Martin, Betty says.
“Our neighbors said that we were their alarm clock,” Betty says. “When they heard our truck in the morning, they knew it was time to start thinking about getting up.”
They would take only three vacations during their life together – a couple of cruises and Missouri.
“Well, Clint Eastwood’s sister would come get fabrics from us for her upholstery for her home in San Francisco,” Betty says. “She would tell me about her travels; and she just raved about Missouri, so that’s why we went.”
Martin was a dreamer, a visionary, and a believer; but to Betty, he was so much more.
“I always said that God sent me an angel from heaven and that was Martin,” she says.
According to Betty, Martin loved music, so it is only fitting that the amphitheater is named in his honor.
“In the concentration camp, music was always played; and he wouldn’t have made it without the music,” Betty says. “It soothed him, and I am so happy the amphitheater is named in his honor.”