Telegram Staff Writer
Rusty Morales lived for God.
'His faith meant everything to him,' said his cousin, the Rev. Michael Rios of Dallas. 'He had a thorough understanding of Biblical theology.'
And Rusty wanted to celebrate it with a revival.
'He was so excited about it,' said mom Judy Morales of Temple. 'We started talking about how we could have it in the backyard.'
Having the revival somewhere else wasn't an option, because Rusty's health was on the decline. A 1978 motorcycle accident confined him to a wheelchair and a lifetime of hospital visits.
The revival didn't happen. Rusty died on June 14, five days after he and Rios started planning. He was 48.
'It was a Sunday,' Ms. Morales said. 'I went to go wake him up for church, and he was gone.'
But Rusty's dream of a revival is not lost. His friends and family aim to make the revival a reality with a Nov. 14 gospel concert.
'It'll be a memorial in his honor,' Ms. Morales said. 'There'll be praise, worship and gospel music.' Groups expected to perform are The Holy Tones, The Anointed Ones, Blue Rivers and the Eighth Street Baptist Choir. Soloists will be Rios and Mike Middleton.
The program is sure to be something Rusty would have liked.
'He was all about the gospel,' Rios said. 'He loved contemporary Christian music, and I am so glad we got to talk about the revival before he went home to heaven.'
The goal of the memorial will be to raise a $10,000 Temple College scholarship endowment fund for disabled people. Love offerings will be accepted at the concert, and during intermission there will be a silent auction for jewelry items, Little Joe CDs, University of Texas memorabilia and a football autographed by the UT team.
'Rusty loved UT,' Ms. Morales said, adding that his room was decorated in the schools colors of burnt orange and white.
Rusty's family wants to start the endowment fund because TC was a special place to Rusty.
'He'd visit there every Monday,' Ms. Morales said. 'He had a lot of friends there.'
Rusty would ride the HOP bus transit system to get from place to place.
'He lived as independently as he could,' Ms. Morales said. 'And he had a full life with a routine he enjoyed.'
It was the college on Monday, the Baptist Student Ministry and Temple Public Library on Tuesday, the Central Texas Council of Governments building in Belton on Wednesday and the gym on Thursday.
'On Fridays, he'd go visit patients at Scott & White,' Ms. Morales said.
Ms. Morales thought her son went to these places to visit people because he loved talking.
'But that was just part of it,' she said.
Just before Rusty's funeral, Ms. Morales learned her son's visits were filled with more than idle chat.
'I met a woman who was very upset over Rusty's passing,' Ms. Morales said. 'She knew him from library, and she said that he meant a great deal to her because he'd come and minister to her.'
Judith Hughes was that woman. She's the library assistant at Temple Public Library.
'When I met him, my health was in a state that I didn't know where it was going,' Ms. Hughes said. 'And he had a lot of struggles too, and when he started talking, I realized he was a Christian. The things he said made the world of difference to me. Rusty came through for me, showing me how great life could be if you lived for God.'
Ms. Hughes came to treasure their weekly visits.
'He was very special to me,' Ms. Hughes said. 'I will miss him greatly.'
Ms. Hughes wasn't the only one for Rusty to mentor. There were dozens of others.
Debbi Owen from TC knows of Rusty's kindness. He'd come in to visit the TRIO students. TRIO is a government-funded program for low-income first-generation college students and students with disabilities.
'He'd share his story with the kids, and how he came to be a Christian,' Ms. Owen said. 'He'd say that if you live for the Lord, then good things will happen to you.'
His testimony was very powerful, she said.
'He was very inspiring,' Ms. Owen said. 'He was always upbeat and happy, regardless of his wheelchair and oxygen tank. It's hard to feel bad about your own problems he's telling you how good life is.'
The TRIO students miss Rusty.
'He was their friend,' Ms. Owen said. 'He was always willing to talk any student who was stressed out about a test or a bad grade. He'd lift their mood and encourage them.'
Reports like these filled his mother with happiness.
'It helped me be at peace,' Ms. Morales. 'I knew my son felt like he had a purpose. It was be out in the world and minister to people. I am glad he was able to do as much as he did.'
---How to help?
A fundraiser to establish a Temple College scholarship endowment in Rusty Morales' name for people with disabilities is underway. To contribute, send donations payable to Temple College Foundation to 19 N. Main St., Temple TX 76501. A secondary goal is to earn money for a chapel or prayer garden at Temple College. For details, call Judy Morales, at 760-9763.
---Did you know ?
Rusty Morales and his friend, Russell Green, had a motorcycle accident in 1978. Rusty was 17. The new motorcycle belonged to Green, the driver. The two were going to buy helmets. Green died in the accident.
After the accident, Rusty was in a coma for five months. When he woke up, he couldn't walk. He also had a speech impediment, a damaged short-term memory and a slew of other health problems that kept him in and out of the hospital for the rest of his life.
Rusty went to physical therapy and studied hard. He earned his GED from the Temple schools in 1982. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed his graduation photo.
The youth wing at the Wind Crest Rehab and Nursing Center in Harker Heights was established at the time of Rusty's treatment in the late '70s. His family organized fundraising efforts for it.
In 1990, Rusty was on the TISD special education board.
He was named the 1993 'Person of the Year' by the Bell County Judge's Committee for Persons with Disabilities.
Rusty was a member of Goodwill Baptist Church in Temple.