CRYSTAL LAKE – The only way Joseph Morton could rationalize retiring was that he was going to be just as busy.
The retired Northeastern Illinois University professor turned out two books on early American history and wrote a weekly “On This Day” column for the Northwest Herald, which he hoped to turn into another book.
Morton, 81, died Wednesday night at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.
“He lived and breathed history, and he made it come alive,” his son, Richard Morton, said. “I didn’t follow in his footsteps, but I enjoyed listening to him talk.”
Joseph Morton and his wife, Deanne, have four children, Robert, Richard and his wife Janine, Joseph Jr. and his wife Kathleen, and Jacqueline. They also have four grandchildren, Drew, Daniel, Sabra and Noah.
“He always pushed us to do as well as we could academically,” Robert Morton said. “He thought that was very important. He was also very involved in our sports. He managed my [Little League] baseball team as well as my brother’s.”
Joseph Morton loved baseball, especially the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Senators. He also followed college sports, rooting for his alma mater, the University of Maryland, where he received his undergraduate degree, master’s and doctorate, all in history.
The love of history started when as punishment for skipping three days of school in a row, Morton’s father made him read Carl Sandberg’s six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.
“Sandburg was not a very good historian, but he was a very good writer,” Morton told Northwest Herald editor Dan McCaleb in 2010 when he first started writing his “On This Day” column.
Morton spent as much as eight to nine hours researching for his columns, said his son, Joseph Morton Jr.
“He did it because it gave him something to do that he loves,” he said.