Virginia 'Ginny' Lee Townsend Morgan was founder of Show Me Dharma

COLUMBIA — Ginny Morgan had a habit of calling people "dearest," and when she said it, they believed she meant it.

“She had a wonderful way of helping people to connect with the best parts of themselves,” said Lynn Rossy, president at Show Me Dharma, a center for the study and practice of insight meditation.

“I always knew I could go to Ginny, and she would have a clear, compassionate, intelligent answer for whatever I needed to know," Rossy said.

Virginia “Ginny” Lee (Townsend) Morgan, 63, of Columbia died Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, from complications from breast cancer.

Ms. Morgan was co-founder and guiding teacher at Show Me Dharma. She was known for bringing insight meditation to Missouri and the rest of the Midwest.

“Even as she was going through cancer for 12 years, she kept teaching up until the very end because that’s what she loved to do,” Rossy said. “The two things that really kept her alive were her love of her family and her love of teaching the dharma.”

Ms. Morgan was born in Conway, Ark., on March 20, 1948, to John Powers and Evelyn (Derbyshire) Townsend. She was the youngest of six children.

She graduated from Conway High School and attended the University of Arkansas before completing her undergraduate degree at Stephens College. She earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology at MU, and later she worked as a play therapist for acute and chronically ill children at University Hospital.

She married Speer Morgan. The couple later divorced. She had one daughter, Caitlin Arner.

Ms. Morgan began pursuing religious studies in the early 1970s, and in 1977 she began training to become a Buddhist teacher. She studied Vipassana, an ancient Indian meditation technique, with senior leaders of the form including Ram Dass, Munindra-ji and Matthew Flickstein.

She led the expansion of Buddhist teachings in the Midwest in 1995 as president of the Midwestern retreat center Mid America Dharma . She also taught retreats throughout the country.

“It was through her efforts at Mid America Dharma that she brought a lot of Buddhist teachers to the Midwest,” Rossy said.

Ms. Morgan is survived by a daughter, Caitlin Arner and her fiance, Alex Thomas; two grandchildren, Emlyn and Gabriel; four sisters, Jean Mills and her husband, Edward, of Hot Springs, Ark., Beth Latch and her husband, Bill, of Bismarck, Ark., Lydia Swize and her husband, Myron, of Denver, and Sue Smith and her husband, Don, of Texarkana, Ark.

Her parents and brother, Robert William Townsend, died earlier.

A celebration service and potluck dinner will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Unity Center, 1600 W. Broadway.

Donations may be made to Show Me Dharma, c/o Robert Hodge, 5004 Dustin Court, Columbia, MO 65203, or the Voluntary Action Center, 403A Vandiver Drive, Columbia, MO 65202.

Condolences can be posted on the Show Me Dharma Facebook page.