MINIS COLUMN: James Morelli thought people should go through life with a smile on their faces
James Morelli never muttered an unkind word about anybody, says his daughter, Angela Prince.
Morelli did more than teach his children that if they couldn't say anything nice about a person, not to say anything at all, Prince says. He modeled that lesson for them.
For James Morelli, co-founder of Morelli Heating and Air Conditioning, old-fashioned values always were in style.
Morelli, who was born in September 1927, died April 16. In between, he spent a lot of time looking on the bright side of things. He really believed people should go through life with smiles on their faces.
Morelli felt sad at the thought that someone might not be happy, Prince says.
In his personal life, he and wife Joyce Lloyd Morelli, befriended the first black family to enroll their children in Sacred Heart Catholic School in the 1960s.
In his business life, he would pay courtesy calls to customers, just to make sure their heating and air systems were working well, Prince says. When they phoned at night, he took the calls, no matter how late.
There was a family with a newborn whose heat went out one night, Prince says. Morelli crawled under their house at midnight and repaired the system.
For him, some of the most rewarding professional experiences involved the challenges of designing heating and air-conditioning systems for historic structures not designed to have them.
Morelli Heating & Air Conditioning worked with other firms to design systems for several historic Charleston structures.
While Morelli liked figuring out how to meet the technical challenges, he had simple personal tastes.
“Fancy things did not impress him,” Prince says. “One of his favorite meals was cold pork and beans. He liked fried chicken (with friends) and couldn't care less about going to a fancy restaurant.
Morelli's favorite social environments were casual ones where family and friends could joke.
Her father, a typically quiet man, did have a sense of humor, Prince says.
Morelli joined the Navy and was sent to the Pacific just before the end of World War II, but he never fought because the Japanese surrendered.
Later, he would create a special tale about his wartime experiences just for his children.
“He told us that the Japanese surrendered because they knew he was coming,” Prince says laughing. “He also had this scar on his leg and told each one of us a different story about he got it.”
He told one child a bayonet caused the scar, another a bullet caused it, and each of the others, something else.
Morelli was athletic as a boy and young man.
“He played all sports in high school,” Prince says.
And he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and played professional baseball for the then-Boston Braves minor league baseball franchise.
Perhaps, that was how he got the scar.
Most people who knew him as an adult never knew about his sports achievements because he was a humble person, Prince says.
He was content to be a member of the Palmetto Touchdown Club, a high school booster organization, she says. And he'll long be remembered as a fixture at the Charleston Municipal Golf Course on Maybank Highway.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.
Editor's note: James Morelli's wife was misidentified in earlier versions of this story. She was Joyce Lloyd Morelli. Other firms worked with Morelli Heating & Air in designing systems for some historic structures. The Post and Courier regrets the errors.