These coaches had the winning touch

August 05, 2004

Jeff Benson

Richard Morse and Douglas Root were both known for their unwavering

compassion and their participation in Newport-Mesa youth sports

circles, but the similarities don't end there. The two died six days

apart and at relatively young ages.

Morse, 48, died in his sleep at his Costa Mesa home July 26. He

served as a soccer coach for Carden Hall, as a coach for community


basketball teams and was a longtime volunteer referee for Costa

Mesa's American Youth Soccer Organization. He was well-known by local

parents, coaches and kids, as about 270 people attended church

services with a maximum capacity of 170, friends said.

"We couldn't believe the turnout," said 40-year friend Jeff

Erickson. "He had a big circle of friends and acquaintances, and they

were all people he worked with and played with."

Root died July 20 at age 42. The Newport Beach resident and Corona

del Mar High School graduate lived in the Newport-Mesa community his

entire life. He's served as a longtime coach in the Costa Mesa

American Youth Soccer Organization as well as on Little League teams.

The pair's dedication to children touched some of the same


"I've been thinking about it a lot," said Newport Beach's John

Yeager, whose son, Jack, played sports under both coaches. "It's

weird that they passed on at the same time and at such a young age.

The community could use more people like them."

Morse, owner of Rick's Custom Painting in Costa Mesa, also coached

Carden Hall's fifth- and sixth-grade boys, including Jack, in the

Daily Pilot Cup. Yeager said it was the first time a Carden Hall

boys' club had ever played in the soccer tournament.

"I'd heard from his wife that the team wasn't having its best

season," Yeager said. "But he won his last game the other night and

went out a winner. He really made it happen."

Root was a founding member of the nondenominational Rock Harbor

Church in Costa Mesa and has served there in various capacities for

seven years, said Chad Halliburton, the church's director of

celebration and the arts.

"Doug was one of the pillars for the church as far as his

involvement and his leadership," Halliburton said. "He was always

enthusiastic in getting other people involved. Just a real

trustworthy guy."

Halliburton said Root was also instrumental in setting up the

church's holiday shows and in the planning of Rock Harbor's proposed


Morse is survived by his wife, Debbie, son Kawika, sisters Sharie

Leird and Michele Knipp and father Robert E. Morse. Services were

Wednesday afternoon at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar.

Root is survived by his wife, Lauri, sons J.D. and Tim, brother

Jim Root and sisters Cindy Strom and Patti Clark.

Memorial services were held July 26 at Mariners Church in Irvine.

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