Donald Leroy Morris
August 24, 1938-March 23, 2021
Thank you for being here with us today as we honor and celebrate our Dad.
Live hard and have fun. That was the life advice Dad recently shared with his oldest grandchild. When I asked him what “live hard” meant, he talked about the need to work hard and the opportunities that happened for him because he had in fact worked hard. While I had never heard Dad articulate his advice in that way, I assure you his daily example of him living hard, and having fun has had a huge impact on all of us.
When it came to living hard, Dad was the ultimate problem solver. He was ahead of his time in so many ways. The progression of telephones and the break-up of the Bell System not only happened at Dad’s work, it happened right in our very own house. In the 70s we had a telephone in every room, even the bathroom. When Dad didn’t want to hear us yell “Shelley! Pam is on the phone” one more time, he installed a buzzer system. Once, when I wanted a porch swing on my apartment balcony, but was not allowed to install anything, he built me a swing stand, out of PVC pipe. Dad repurposed and upcycled household items long before HGTV was a thing. If the pipes were frozen, the car was broken, or pretty much anything was on the fritz, Dad could and would fix it. Now, it may not have been the way mom wanted it repaired and it might take more than one shot at fixing it, but he did it and he did it without YouTube.
Over the years when things have broken in our own homes, when we’ve had YouTube, Dad was still our first call. He would have a recommendation and encouragement for us to fix it ourselves. Dad would say, “If it’s already broke, you can’t make it any worse.” Dad worked hard every day and taught us there was always a solution. While he was very impressed with our formal education, we all know, what HE taught us was far more important than anything we ever learned in college.
Dad taught us to make the best of any situation. Life certainly wasn’t always easy for him, but he rarely talked about the past. Not so much because it was hard, but because it didn’t define him and he certainly didn’t use it as an excuse. While Dad didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, he and mom worked very hard to ensure that all three of us did and they supported us in so many ways. Dad called us regularly, but he never asked about our classes or our grades. You see Dad knew we had the necessary work ethic to live and study hard, but he wasn’t at all confident that we were going to take full advantage of all the fun that college had to offer us. Well, except Shelley. He called her to hear about her adventures. He called Todd and me to encourage us to seek more.
Dad was genuine and authentic. He told you what he thought, no matter what. Dad was a deep thinker and a planner. We knew something good was coming when he called and said, “You know Trace, I was thinking…” That phrase was regularly followed by “now your mother doesn’t want to do this, but...”
Dad enjoyed traveling and seeing new places. He also loved hearing about our travels. No matter where we were going, he would want to know the routes we chose and how long it took. My last year in grad school I was home for Christmas and Dad, who never purchased the presents, made a big deal he had something for me. He even went upstairs to retrieve it. While I was secretly hoping he’d return with car keys for a new car, Dad came down and handed me an atlas. When I looked at him puzzled, he said, “When you graduate you’ll be able to go anywhere, now we need to make sure you know HOW to get there and back.”
Dad was soft spoken, kind, and quite funny but he was also extremely strong willed. Rarely did he raise his voice, but oh my goodness did he love a good debate. His light hearted, easy going nature could turn fierce if he was trying to convince you about something. And once he had the internet, there was no stopping his ability to research something and prove you wrong. Dad could also track you whether you were in a car or on a cruise ship. He could easily have worked for Google Maps.
Dad loved sitting in the porch swing on Main Street. He enjoyed waving at the people going by and truly appreciated swinging while a good storm rolled in. We spent many hours counting the seconds between lightning and thunder.
Dad was passionate about golf. He loved watching it, playing it and even making golf clubs for himself and others. While he enjoyed everything about the game, what he loved most was golfing with his buddies. Dad would have gone every day if he could have and as small children we learned that that it never rains on the golf course and it never gets dark on the golf course.
Dad loved sports. He loved to talk about them, to watch them, and he especially loved to watch Todd and his grandkids play them. Coach Cisar might have taken credit for Todd being a good quarterback but we all know it was Dad that threw ball with Todd, for hours. It was Dad who stood on the fence and watched his practices and it was Dad who recapped every play with him after the game.
Dad’s smile was infectious. He was always smiling and always happy to see us, no matter how we might be wreaking havoc on his life or schedule or his plans when we showed up or when Mom and Dad arrived at our homes to save us. Dad was happy to the core.
Summer was always about our family beach trip. Sometimes we went with the Masons. Sometimes we went with the Winlands. But we always went and it was the best week of the summer. Now, we never left at the planned time and we never went the same route. Dad was determined to find the fastest/best route. We’d plan to eat dinner, pack and leave at 4:30 in the morning and without fail, Dad would want to leave right after dinner. Then, we’d stuff every inch of that blue and brown paneled station wagon and pull out around midnight. This happened every single year.
Mom and Dad married very young. Like most of us, regardless of what age we marry, they had no earthly idea what they were doing. They had many peaks and their share of valleys but they stuck it out, together. They have loved us with all they had.
While he was Don to Mom, Dad to my siblings and me, and Donnie to his friends, the titles that came most naturally for him were Pop Pop, Pap Pap, and Pappy. Dad’s lap was a safe haven and comfort spot for 7 amazing grandchildren. He was silly and loving and extremely proud of each one and we all cherished seeing him play with and care for his grands. Dad’s face would light up when any of the grands came to visit and in the past year during the pandemic, their video calls were the highlights of his day.
In the past month Dad told many nurses he needed to get home for a golf trip. He was hoping to play one more summer with his friends and one more round with his kids and grandkids. But is true Don, Dad, Donnie, Pop Pop, Pap Pap and Pappy form, he left earlier than any of us wanted or planned. Ironically, he left at 4:30 a.m. for this adventure.
We know Dad’s having the best time playing golf with his buddies and hopefully buying the first round on the 19th hole.
Hit ‘em straight Dad. We will work diligently to live hard and have fun in your name.