When son Jeff Morris was asked for a few quotes about his father, Andrew Morris, what we received was a heartfelt tribute to our wonderful resident. Enjoy! Happy, healthy Father’s Day to all the dads and granddads out there!
Here is a picture of Dad with his four sisters. This was taken in 1952 before he was deployed to the Philippines to command a mapping unit in the remote jungles in territory controlled by the “Hucks,” an armed militia in rebellion against the Philippine government. He was actually shot at by a group of rebels who came out of the jungle onto the riverbank as he floated down the river on a raft.
My dad, who just turned 91, has been an actual dad for 67 years, as I am his oldest. But he had to serve as a father for about 17 years before I was born. His father died when he was just seven, leaving my grandmother, with no inheritance and a secretary’s wages, in the middle of the Great Depression, to raise him and his four young sisters. As the man of the house, he took on the fatherly role for his sisters, though he had very strong hands-on assistance from my grandmother.
Dad was an all-around athlete in high school (football, basketball, and baseball) and a math whiz. He was the first (and maybe last) student to receive 100% on his senior math exam.
He was admitted to both MIT (yes, the MIT) and Lehigh University, which was just down the road in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He chose Lehigh because he wanted to play football, and MIT did not have a team.
Dad was not recruited to play. So, he walked on and made the team. He was then given a partial athletic scholarship for the rest of his varsity career. He also walked on and made the basketball and baseball teams. In football, he earned Second Team All-East Honors and was offered a tryout by the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL.
Recognizing that no professional football player, let alone 180-pound guys with modest speed at best, were very well paid in those days, he chose to start on real life right away.
After his military service, he started working for the Trane Company, starting as a commissioned sales engineer selling Trane’s commercial air conditioning equipment in Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, at age 24. Then at age 31, in 1960, he was offered the opportunity to own and manage the Kansas City Trane franchised commercial sales office. He was the youngest franchise holder in the history of the company.
In Kansas City, I remember he worked long hours and almost every weekend. But he was always home for dinner (but would often then go back to the office), and he was always the coach or manager of either my or one of my two brother’s baseball and football teams. He also took up tennis when we did and became accomplished enough to hold his own against even my little sister, who was ranked third in the state of Wisconsin as a junior and played four years of Division I college tennis.
Dad also took up golf for the first time in his early 20’s but then had to drop the game during our almost seven years in Kansas City as he devoted all his energy to his business and to coaching his son’s teams.
He picked golf back up when we moved to Wisconsin in 1966 when he was offered the opportunity to take over the Milwaukee franchise of the Trane Company. Though he never was a long hitter, he did everything else skillfully…so skillfully that he was the five-time Club Champion at Chenequa Country Club in Hartland.
While the Trane franchise still occupied a lot of time, Dad found time to run for and serve on the School Board at Arrowhead. He also was a regular attendee at virtually every basketball, football, baseball, tennis, and golf game/match/tourney that one of his children competed in.
He worked his entire business career with Trane. Shortly after retirement, he allowed my mom, who had followed him out to the Midwest, to choose their retirement venue. She chose Essex, Connecticut, and they lived there until they moved back here to Eastcastle Place to be closer to at least some of the family.
For me, my two brothers and sister, he was everything a father should be. He taught us by his example (not by preaching), eternal optimism, the value of hard work, the virtue of always looking for the best in every person you meet, and of always striving (at least to be as good as you can be) at whatever task you undertake. He was intensely competitive, which sometimes lead to regrettable situations. But he always had the ability, after the fact, to recognize his competition fueled misstep and apologize for it. While he worked very hard, he always put us kids and my mom first. Dad, to this day, sincerely believes that anyone can rise to be successful in this country. While he and I do not always see eye to eye on some social issues, I know exactly where his perspective comes from. Although he has never said it, his life is, in fact, a Horatio Alger story.